The German Government has outlined proposals to stop employers using social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace to obtain personal information when assessing a job applicant’s suitability for a position. Personal information accessible via professional networks such as LinkedIn will be exempt from this restriction, as many individuals use such sites for professional networking purposes and to market themselves to prospective employers.

These proposals form part of a general overhaul of Germany’s data protection legislation currently underway and are being implemented in light of recent scandals involving German employers spying on employees. Parliament there is expected to approve the new law by early 2011. It is to be hoped that it does not cross the Channel – in our view employers not only can but should take care to acquaint themselves reasonably fully with prospective hires, and any evidence from a public site that a possible new recruit lacks one or more desirable attributes (honesty, decency, ability to spell, self-awareness, etc) must be relevant to that decision. After all, even if the employer does not look at those sites, colleagues and business contacts may do so. If there is material there reflecting badly on the candidate, surely best to find it now!