It’s important to remember that the internet does not forget and is unbiased. We, as a working culture, will have to become more lenient and forgiving of people’s actions. However, the current culture in America is far away from this ideal best practice. Part of the problem is the generation gap. The baby boomers, who control most of corporate America today, have not completely embraced the internet and have not established boundaries and guidelines for its use. Generation Y and late X’ers are not faultless either. In their youthful ignorance of the internet, both Generation Y and X have allowed the internet to record some unsightly things – whether it be pictures after a long night of partying or a defaming comment about his or her boss. Baby boomers often use Generation Y and X’s ignorance as an opportunity to “teach” them a hard lesson.
A lesson for everyone in this Age of Information: take control of your online identity! While the law is still gray where it comes to companies using information gathered on the internet since no HR department in their right mind would say they denied a job applicant because of some wild pictures found on Facebook, it is still better to be proactive and manage your online identity. Sure, remember to put up your privacy settings, but also create a website or blog to talk about your interests. It shows you’re passionate about the industry and are well informed.
Recently there has been a disturbing trend of companies not only searching candidates but also asking applicants to sign in to his or her Facebook account at an interview. Companies should not be doing this. It is a very gray area and can blow up into a lawsuit if not careful. Companies need to have set standards on what information can be gleaned from the internet and, most importantly, how the information can and cannot be used against a job applicant. Applicants cannot be denied based on their personal lifestyle unless it has a meaningful impact or relation to the job he or she will perform. The first step for companies will be establishing these guidelines.
Most of this comes down to the issue of privacy and each of us have a different level of comfort in regards to how much and what we are willing to share. Until there is a consensus of what should and should not be posted on the internet, it is best for people to best manage their online identity and for companies to establish protocols in regards to how information gathered through the internet can and cannot be used against an individual.