Frequently Asked Employment Questions

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Document updated/added on 04.05.2021

Topic: Recruitment process

Is it legal to use social networking sites to sift job applications?

Yes, but only in certain circumstances. Publicly available personal data is subject to exactly the same data protection rules as any other data processing. Processing personal data that's on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter will only be lawful under the UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 if you have a lawful basis for the processing, e.g. pursuance of your legitimate interests (although bear in mind that your legitimate interests can be overridden by the interests or fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual). To comply with fair processing requirements, you would also need to show that collection of the personal data on social networking sites is necessary and relevant to the performance of the job which is being applied for, and this is more likely with social media profiles which are related to business purposes, such as LinkedIn, than those which are for purely personal purposes, such as Facebook. If you do intend to use this method as an initial sift, make sure it's covered in your privacy notice for job applicants, so that individuals are correctly informed that it's to happen. Finally, be aware that there is also the risk of a discrimination claim if you reject a job applicant because of something you see on their online profile, e.g. you discover they are pregnant or transgender. Tip. If you do discover something you're not happy about, do have a different reason for a rejection to hand, just in case it’s queried by an applicant.