Over the course of this blog thus far I have spoken at great length about the best way to present oneself to the melee of prying eyes in the digital world. However, one aspect of the discussion that we appear to have chosen to skirt around is the ‘ethics‘ of this barrage of scrutiny, and that’s because it’s a whole new can of digital worms.
As I’ve discussed in previous posts, there is no doubt that employers will explore every corner of the Internet to try to learn a little bit more about you. But we should not necessarily simply grumble to ourselves and accept our online self-censorship (even though I say it pays to be careful).
The issue of the ethics of ‘screening’ via social media is that nobody really knows where the line should be drawn, as it has only come to the forefront since the global uprising of social media itself. Given that we choose to make our lives public, should employers be able to use this against us?
Officially, there’s no reason why not, and that’s because, as I said, you’ve chosen to make your information public. There are some obvious ways to put off an employer, or even get yourself fired, over social media. Just take a look at these examples rounded up by GMM:
However, the lines become blurred when it comes to exactly which aspects of your life a potential employer considers a deterrent. For example, hiring (or not hiring) on grounds of race, religion or sexuality, to name but a few, is not legal in any aspect of society, including via your online profile. There are, in fact, extensive criteria in ensuring the legality of screening employees online, which if neglected, can result in a lawsuit.
The fact that there are so many pitfalls for employers when it comes to using social media to find out more about someone would suggest that it’s probably not worth their time and effort, but given that there are so few ways of actually proving such activity or enforcing the implications in the current technological climate, it’s up to us to take responsibility for our profiles.
But it would appear that, despite all that we’ve covered in this module thus far about preserving our online identity, the ethical dilemma really lies with the employer in what they make of our profiles. Perhaps we shouldn’t feel persecuted and fearful of the ramifications of our online activity. The ethical responsibility should lie with the employer, who should be able to make impartial judgements about an individual without relying on Facebook, as many of us choose to separate these aspects of our lives.
Fast Company article by Robert McHale
New York Times article by Jon Ronson
Scientific American article by Roni Jacobson