Many prospects and customers ask us the following question: Is social media screening ethical?
Often, what they're really asking is whether social media screening is legal. Legal and ethical are very different things. So let's unpack both questions but without getting bogged down in a philosophical discussion. Instead, we'll take a common sense approach.
Is social media screening legal?
The short answer is, it depends. The longer answer: Compliant social media screening is legal. But the key word is "compliant."
By compliant, we mean a social media background check that...
- Provides requisite authorizations/disclosures and gets written permission from the candidate/employee to conduct the social media screening
- Focuses only on business-related information and redacts EEOC protected class information when presenting results
- Does not use any sort of hacking, scraping, or otherwise illegal or unethical ways to gain access to social accounts; in other words, only publicly available information is screened, in compliance with state privacy laws
- Makes a good-faith effort, as dictated by law, to ensure the correct person is being reviewed (for example, making sure you're seeing information on the "right" John Smith)
- Has built-in compliance processes such as consumer disputes and adverse action facilitation, to ensure the candidate/employee has the opportunity to confirm that all information provided is complete and accurate.
Good Egg’s compliant social media background check solution will scour an applicant's publicly available online activity for behaviors that could put your company and workforce at risk. It identifies and flags the following:
- Hate speech
- Insults and bullying
- Obscene language
- Threat of Violence
- Toxic Language
- Drug-Related Images
- Explicit/Racy Images
- Violent Images
Is social media screening ethical?
Before we can speak to whether something is ethical, let's define how we're using the word "ethical" in the context of this discussion.
Merriam-Webster defines ethical as "involving or expressing moral approval or disapproval" (as in ethical judgments) or "conforming to accepted standards of conduct" (as in "ethical behavior").
All of the behaviors outlined above violate society's accepted standards of conduct. For example, someone publicly tweeting racist memes violates accepted standards of conduct. Someone threatening violence goes against accepted standards of conduct. Someone who is bullying another person goes against accepted standards of conduct. And so forth.
As such, compliant social media screening is ethical since it shines a light on behaviors that violate "accepted standards of conduct" and can negatively impact the workplace.
We understand that employees or job candidates might not necessarily see it this way, but that's often because they don't fully understand how legal social media screening works or why an organization would choose to conduct the screening in the first place. Education is critical! Make sure you have a background check policy that clearly articulates a compliant process.
Once people understand that your goal isn't to snoop or spy, but rather to protect the workforce by flagging behavior that society agrees violates "accepted standards of conduct," they will very likely accept and even embrace the concept.