In a federal employment case, a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has blessed Google background searches by employers.
In US law, a employer searching about an employee didn't violate his "right to fundamental fairness".
A Google search didn't constitute ex-parte communication, since it wasn't a communication between parties. The judges commented that the Internet should be regarded as just another research source.
What this means is that anyone's past will continue to haunt them — most crucially, however it appears online — and, so far, the law's no defence.
This is US law, but, logically, there doesn't appear to be much practical defence in the UK. How is the Web different from looking at paper archives? Or calling people?
The web is obviously completely different by dint of the scale of information about you and how easy it is to find it.
So, isn't it smart to research online before you hire somebody?
- If it's recorded anywhere that someone thinks you smoked dope at university, it's out there and may come back to haunt you.
- That comment you made and forgot about on a Bulletin Board where you expressed an opinion?
- That time when you annoyed someone powerful and they made false claims about you which spread around the web and you couldn't respond?
- If it's your Real Name out there, how aren't you stuffed if this causes someone to form a negative opinion? How would you know?
Are today's digital generation aware of the electronic record they're leaving behind them?
And how unprepared / undefended they are from the consequences?
- Excerpts from the appeals court's opinion (PDF)