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Germany moves to ban bosses from checking your Facebook

By Ed Oswald, Betanews

In an age where just about anything is shared on Facebook, employers have turned to it and other social networking sites to ensure its employee’s behavior is on the up and up. In Germany, that practice may become illegal.

German news outlets are reporting that Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière is working on new privacy legislation that would outlaw corporate snooping on social networking profiles. It would restrict the amount of information that current as well as prospective employers could gather and use.

Employers would still be able to use search engines in order to gather information on an employee, however it would be banned from being used in employment decisions if it came from a third party. It also does not cover social networking sites intended for professionals.

The law apparently has the blessing of the cabinet, but now must be passed onto parliament for a full vote. With European governments typically having much stricter privacy controls than their US counterpart, its not out of the question that the law would indeed pass.

Germany has historically been very cognizant of privacy, even though the government itself has a history of spying on its citizens, the Gestapo being the most notorious example.

Both Maizière and privacy experts do say that the law could be quite difficult to enforce. For example, it may be difficult to prove that employers were indeed snooping — although friending a current or prospective employee to find out personal information would be illegal.

With many adding new friends on their social networking profiles with little thought as to an actual real-life friendship, employers may gain access to this information anyway — and could easily give another reason for hiring or termination to cover their true intentions of adding the person.

If somehow the victim can prove he or she was spied on, the new law would permit them to sue the company in court and claim damages.

Copyright Betanews, Inc. 2010

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