Google’s ‘right to be forgotten’ will force recruiters to go back to basics

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A recent ruling from EU Court of Justice has established that its subjects have the ‘right to be forgotten’ and asked Google and other search engines to remove access to information that do not comply with privacy rules. The verdict was reinforced after the case of Mario Costeja Gonzalez, a Spanish citizen who requested that information linked to his past financial difficulties were removed from online search engines.

Google responded by defending the ‘right to know’ and questioning the difficulty of dealing with each take-down request. Nonetheless, the search engine giant also confirmed that a new instrument will be soon implemented to enable consumers take down information about themselves on search engines.

European’s highest court decision potentially affects 500 million consumers and is very likely to impact current recruitment practices. In the first place, it will safeguard the privacy of those employees with convictions that have become spent after a number of years. Those convictions usually do not need to be disclosed to employers, yet recruiters can still track them online if they wish so. Similarly, victims of misunderstanding or malice will be increasingly protected against breaches that could take place in the context of potential employment.

Stemming from the above, restricting access to candidate information is not necessarily a bad thing for recruitment. It can encourage resourcing professionals to stay away from information that is (at best) irrelevant or obsolete; and focus on evaluating candidates on the basis of what is really essential – skills, qualification, and experience. This also complies with CIPD’s guidelines on vetting and pre-employment checks, where employers are advised to limit their screenings to social media intended for professional purposes.

Arguably, the EU court ruling can be seen as a reasonable effort to protect consumer privacy. The applicability of the judgement, however, is not to be taken for granted. Banning every single page linked to privacy-disruptive information is not realistic and might require firewall measures – a scenario more typical in countries like China than in Western democracies.

Further to that, it could be reasoned that the right to be forgotten undermines internet’s greatest strength: making information (of every kind) open, available, and accessible. Does this imply that the duty of safeguarding consumer privacy is more important than the freedom of expression?

Paul Allievi, Senior Resourcing Advisor at Retroscreen Virology, commented that “the recent EU court ruling supporting Mario Costeja Gonzalez goes someway, in my opinion to putting the brakes on a vehicle that is both premature and not fit for purpose within the context of recruitment or HR. Within a blink of a technological eye as individuals and as society we open up our lives for “out of context” review and comment on events that could have easily taken place years if not decades ago or even sometimes on totally inaccurate postings.

Trawling through Google, etc. searches as a recruitment process for evidence not to hire questions how robust was the original interviewing and selection process plus the criteria we seek to hire an individual? Rather than adopting the old fashioned way of interviewing and considering the candidate’s skill, knowledge and experience”.

Article by Sergio Russo

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One Comment - Write a Comment

  1. Hi Sergio, I don’t really think (or at least I hope) that the situation isn’t that bad, ie that recruiters haven’t been ‘unselecting’ people depending on their social media footprints. But I still don’t think any amount of ‘digital forgetting’ is going to reduce the opportunity to manage risks by checking information that’s publicly available on potential hires. So I do disagree with the CIPD on this (so do most socially savvy recruiters I know) – if the information is there, and it’s important, then use it (in a managed, ethical way) – and that’s the same whether it’s on a personal, or a professionally-related, social media site.

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