With the proliferation of social media sites such as blogs, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and their increasing prominence in the business realm, it is not surprising that employers have begun to access the information posted on these sites in the course of conducting background checks on prospective employees. Legal risks may arise for employers even before the employment relationship has begun as a result of using social media websites to collect information about job candidates. Although employers may consider reviewing the contents of a prospective employee’s Facebook page part of their due diligence, this practice would likely be considered a collection, use or disclosure of personal information under Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act, which governs how private organizations collect, use and disclose personal information. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta has recently released “Social Media Guidelines” which identify the legal risks that arise in this context. Employers should take note of the eight pointers it outlines, such as: if you can’t ask it in an interview, don’t take it from the Internet. Employers should also consider whether they have reasonable purpose for performing social media background checks and whether they can do so in a compliant manner.

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