My larger goal is to conduct a content analysis of publicly available information on Facebook. My point here is to begin developing a chapter on employer’s use of data fishing to vet potential employees. 

Title: Don’t take the bait…Facebook privacy and employer fishing

Thesis/Core Argument:  Given that individuals (ie – U.S. citizens) expect a certain amount of privacy and exhibit a certain amount of control over that privacy “in real life”, are those expectations and controls extended to the virtual world as well? The question of privacy and control over personal information may come into sharper focus when discussing means of getting and using that information which employers may apply to potential job candidates. Those means and uses have been criticized and debated in both the public arena and through the law. This paper will examine the current trends in Facebook privacy controls and the ethical and legal uses of that data with special emphasis on employer information fishing.

Research question: What tactics and tools do users have to protect their privacy? What are potential employees doing to safeguard their privacy and personal information? What are employers doing with public information they find on Facebook? What are the legal and ethical considerations that employers must use when fishing for public information on Facebook?



  • Expectation of privacy on the internet and in the law
  • Why worry about privacy? Privacy allows citizens to protect intellectual, political and religious freedoms
  • M. Zuckerberg’s cavalier attitude toward privacy and his general Facebook philosophy – “making the world more open and connected”. Radically transparent open society and open world
  • Individuals searching for jobs are selling themselves as a one man business (as in you are selling yourself in an interview) and may benefit from some radical opacity instead of radical transparency in social media

Data fishing and data mining on Facebook has been made infinitely easier through the use of the publicly available Facebook API. The complex privacy controls, constant updates and increasingly prevalent applications and games requesting access to use data are making it more difficult for the user to manage their privacy. Although sites such as and the “public preview” view on Facebook are attempting to increase awareness of publicly available information on individual’s Facebook pages. Facebook has received criticism that the privacy settings should default to be more closed and protective and not have the user opt in to higher privacy settings. This seems in direct contrast to founder Mark Zuckerberg’s general philosophy but Zuckerberg may not be able to pull his user’s kicking and screaming into his radically transparent world view if the FTC has anything to say about it. In recent the developments, the FTC may sign off on a settlement requiring Facebook to get consent from users to make any dramatic changes to their current privacy settings. This may be a case of “it’s better to beg for forgiveness later than ask for permission now” on Zuckerberg’s part.

Employer’s use of Facebook:

  • Companies are hired to search Facebook pages. Recent court case upheld the company’s right to fish for public information on Facebook. New legal precedent may be set in considering companies like this as consumer reporting agencies.
  • Fair Credit Reporting Act position on employers receiving “too much information”. The employer cannot undo what they may have seen but per FCRA employers may have to explain how that information did not enter into their hiring decision.
  • But it may not end there. Many employees have experienced backlash from posting negative or scurrolous comments.