EU wants companies to stop stalking their employees' social media

New recommendations from the EU could soon make it illegal for employers to snoop on their potential employees’ Facebook and Twitter profiles.

Scoping out job candidates on social media has become a somewhat expected part of the application process, with users often warned not to post anything they’d be unhappy with a future boss seeing. A ruling from an EU data protection working party, however, says that employers should need “legal grounds” for checking workers’ personal accounts.

The regulators also say that any data collected from internet searches of potential candidates needs to be necessary and “relevant to the performance of the job”.

While non-binding in itself, the recommendation from the Article 29 working party will be highly influential in the EU’s upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – a shake-up of European data protection laws that is expected to be put into effect in May 2018.

In the UK, the GDPR will replace the Data Protection Act 1998, introducing tougher fines for non-compliance as well as giving individuals more power over what companies can do with their data.  

A 2016 report from recruitment site CareerBuilder found that, out of more than 2,000 employers surveyed, around 60% used social media to screen candidates.

“Tools such as Facebook and Twitter enable employers to get a glimpse of who candidates are outside the confines of a resume or cover letter,” Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder, said at the time. “And with more and more people using social media, it’s not unusual to see the usage for recruitment to grow as well.”