Use of social networks set up for 'communication purposes' would be forbidden, although not information gleaned from search engines and professional sites such as LinkedIn. In the UK, it is not inherently unlawful to check out a candidate's 'netrep' (internet reputation), but employers should comply with data protection and anti-discrimination laws. That means being upfront that online checks are being used and obtaining individuals' consent wherever possible, particularly when investigating sources such as Facebook. A sensible precaution is to entrust web searches to someone who is not a decision-maker in the recruitment exercise. That way, you can screen out extraneous or discriminatory information, such as a person's religion, age or sexuality. It also ensures that only matters relevant to candidates' suitability for the job are considered - for example, material that contradicts their application form or CV.
- Michael Burd and James Davies are from Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org