Germany is considering a law that would ban employers from mining information on prospective job candidates from social networking sites such as Facebook to protect people's privacy.
According to a draft of the bill, employers would be able to use publicly accessible information about applicants drawn from the Internet but not from social networking sites that serve “communication purposes,” said Philipp Spauschus, spokesman for Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Interior. It would include sites such as Facebook, schülerVZ, studiVZ and StayFriends.
Social Websites related to work, such as Xing and LinkedIn, can be used by employers. The aim of the draft act is to stop private information from becoming public, Spauschus said.
The measure may be difficult to enforce, however, if a breach of duty can’t be proved, Spauschus said. It would have to be shown that the information in question ended up in a personal file, he said.
“However, it is expected, that the managers—as all other people—will act law-abiding," he said.
If the draft act is passed, companies could in theory face fines of up to €300,000 (US$381,000), Spauschus said. The German Parliament is due to discuss the bill.
Facebook could not be immediately reached for comment.
Germany has been aggressive in analyzing online services given the country’s strict privacy laws, which came as a result of intense secret surveillance by the government during the Nazi regime.
Hamburg’s Data Protection Authority continues to discuss with Google its Street View imagery program that is integrated into its Maps application. Google introduced an online tool just for Germans where they can request in advance that their properties do not appear on Street View, which is due to go live in the country by the end of this year for 20 cities.
Hamburg's prosecutor’s office is also continuing an investigation into Google’s collection of unencrypted Wi-Fi data as part of Street View, which the company said was a mistake and has stopped.