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Controversy Abounds in Employment Decisions Based on Social Media Searches

Social media legal experts and various literature point to a multitude of issues and risks faced by both the CRA and the employer who uses social media checks, which include, but are not limited to: Problems under FCRA section 607(b) in exercising “reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy” of the information. Since the information on social media sites is self-reported and can be changed at any time, it is often difficult if not impossible to ascertain that the information is accurate, authentic and belongs to the subject. Online identity theft is not uncommon, as are postings under another person’s name for the purpose of “cyber slamming” (which refers to online defamation, slander, bullying, harassment, etc.) Accessing the information may be in violation of the federal Stored Communications Act (SCA). To the extent that an employer requests or requires an employee’s login or password information, searches of social networking sites may implicate the SCA (18 U.S.C. § 2701) and comparable state laws which prohibit access to stored electronic communications without valid authorization. A California court recently ruled that the SCA also may protect an employee’s private information on social networking sites from discovery in civil litigation.

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