Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Cybersnooping: I See What You Did There

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Cybersnooping: I See What You Did There

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Facebook, the world's largest electronic social network (ESN), reached its 10th birthday in February 2014. Beginning with a few hundred users at a single U.S. university, Facebook now boasts over a billion members worldwide (Stone & Frier, 2014). Facebook's growth is emblematic of the growth of ESN's in general. Billions of people and organizations use Twitter, Instagram, Linked In, Pinterest, and other ESN's to connect, communicate and share information. Much of the data stored and communicated through ESN's is personal in nature, but also of great interest to organizations. Facebook sells data to companies largely for marketing purposes, and many businesses use Facebook and Twitter to market to individuals based on the personal data they have provided (Stone, 2010).

Another area attracting increased interest is the use of ESN data by HR departments for screening and hiring purposes. Employee turnover is costly and employers are looking for ways to minimize their losses through better selection and hiring practices. Employers and recruiters are looking for more economical and efficient ways of recruiting and hiring prospective job candidates. Recent studies reveal an increasing trend in the use of ESN's by prospective employers and recruiters as a tool to screen applicants (Lorenz, 2009). The traditional tools, applications, interviews and references may provide a one dimensional view of the candidate who may have been thoroughly coached about how to create a winning resume, dress for success and interview in order to obtain an offer. Thus, hiring managers are using ESN's to evaluate candidates' character and personality outside the confines of the traditional interview process. According to a 2009 survey conducted by Careerbuilders, the main reasons that hiring managers use ESN's to conduct background research were: to see if the candidate presents themselves professionally, to see if the candidate is a good fit for the company culture, to learn more about the candidate's qualifications, to see if the candidate is well-rounded, and to look for reasons not to hire the candidate (Lorenz, 2009). Some employers have indicated that the reasons why they would not hire a candidate includes posting provocative or inappropriate photographs, information about drinking or using drugs, poor communication skills, badmouthing a previous company or fellow employees, using discriminatory remarks related to race, gender, religion, or lying about qualifications (Wiley et al, 2012). In summary, ESN's may give employers a fuller sense of the types of decisions a job applicant will make once hired (Brandenberg, 2008).

Concerns about the use of ESM data are raised because ESN's contain pictures, comments and other personal information that would not be gleaned from a face-to-face interview. Stringent guidelines imposed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission severely limit the information an interviewer may solicit. During interviews, employers may not ask questions regarding race, religion, sexual preference or marital status; yet all of this information can easily be uncovered by looking at a candidate's ESN profile. The use of acquired information in a way that would eliminate an applicant may give rise to a claim of discrimination in violation of federal laws (see Table 1). Applicants voluntarily divulge personal information to ESN's without an appreciable understanding of how that information can be accessed, viewed and used by a prospective employer. Thus, ESN's may allow employers to be "undetectable voyeurs to personal information and make employment decisions based on that information (Clark & Roberts, 2010).

ESN's may also allow employers to assess the candidate's personality to determine if there is a good organizational fit. Face-to-face interviews afford the interviewer a brief period of time to judge how the applicant presents himself, and whether the candidate possesses the personality characteristics that the organization has identified as desirable and appropriate. …

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