, the German government proposed a law that places restrictions on employers’ uses of Facebook to protect workplace privacy. But the law, a nice gesture of respect for future employees, ignores Facebook’s existence as a tool for weeding out crazies. Apparently just because something’s on the Internet doesn’t mean Germans have to look at it — we don’t get it.
According to the New York Times:
The proposed law would allow managers to search for publicly accessible information about prospective employees on the Web and to view their pages on job-networking sites, like LinkedIn or Xing, but would draw the line at purely social-networking sites like Facebook, said Philipp Spauschus, a spokesman for the Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière.
In effect, Germany is set to adopt the same mind-set as a mother who refuses to snoop through a teen’s room even though she suspects he’s stashing booze and drugs. This begs the question, is information on Facebook necessarily “private” when it’s easily accessible under the tent of the free-for-all circus that is the Internet? If a school is hiring and wants to make sure the new teacher isn’t a booze-bag slut, the surest place to check would be Facebook, but now, Germany is sending the message that they trust booze-bag sluts to keep their booze-bagginess private — if it’s not on LinkedIn, it doesn’t exist. Or perhaps there is merit in keeping private lives private, regardless of what they entail. But to us Americans, that is a very foreign concept.
An even larger question is, how can Germany differentiate among “purely social” social networking sites and “professional” social networking sites? In a world where your Tumblr can funnel into your Twitter and your Tweets pipeline into Facebook and LinkedIn, and each platform overlaps with the other in such closely related ways, isn’t it dangerous to draw definite lines — especially when these lines are explicitly for legal purposes?
Via the Times
The proposal is meant to create guidelines for the courts to handle the cases that will inevitably arise as social networking penetrates further into the fabric of everyday life, he said, and companies would also benefit from clear rules.
The law also restricts secret video surveillance of employees and addresses other privacy matters. But the social networking aspect is what will begin weaving a particularly gnarly, tangled World Wide Web.