Sunday, December 21, 2008


The New York Times and other media have reported that people seeking to work in the White House for the Obama administration are being required to provide vetters with, among other things, links to any blog posts they've made, links to their Facebook pages and "all aliases or `handles' you have used to communicate on the Internet."

Granted, work in the White House is likely to involve more sensitive issues than you'll come across in most workplaces. But employers can use the way prospective employees project themselves on the Internet as a screen for employment decisions, even if these things are not part of the official application process.

Should employers use Facebook pages, Myspace pages or blog posts to determine whether an otherwise qualified candidate with a solid work history and strong recommendations gets a job?

Post your thoughts here by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below. Please include your name, hometown, and state, province, or country. Readers' comments may appear in an upcoming column. Or e-mail your comments to me at

You can also respond to the poll about this question that will appear on the right-hand side of the blog until polling is closed.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

c.2008 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)


Anonymous said...

a great question. i think this will probably get settled in court at some point (like can an employer REQUIRE that an employee allows the employer access to his/her facebook page). but from an employers point of view, i think searching through someone's online life is necessary. anyone who thinks they can have an anonymous online life while living a public life (eg working in gov) needs to get real.

Anonymous said...

What about online dating and profiles/emails associated with that? Where do we draw the line with our personal life becoming professional business and vice versa? I am very careful to keep any professional information out of my profiles, partly because I do not want a stranger showing up at my work; but I also do not want my employer nosing around my dating profiles.

I read the column online.

Anonymous said...

Social media networks are at least quasi-public, and as a hiring manager, I have found them invaluable. A job candidate's, or employee's, profile and behavior online are manifestations of their character. Perhaps never before have we, as society, understood so well that character counts.

Tony said...

Simply Put - Yes - an employer should use all publicly available information. If someone doesn't want information out in the public, they should use the privacy tools or not post info that they don't want seen at all. There no difference in this and taping your love letters on the window of your local bank.

The basis of this question to me, is a question of taking responsibility of one's one actions. Like inscribing the name of a girlfriend in a tattoo, some day you might regret it. What we post on the internet can live longer than the person. The bell has rung.

Anonymous said...

Character matters, and judgment matters. How someone behaves in settings that s/he considers private shows both character and judgment. Behave badly, and that behavior is in someone's memory. If that bad behavior is recorded, it may live long.......and if the recorded individuals prosper, the bad behavior can be there for prospective employers and for House or Senate committees.

The idea that privacy exists on the internet shows intellectual ability as well. Like tattoos, blogs can be permanent; neither are easily removed. Videotape and still photos and other means of permanently recording a few minutes in time are not private (see Hilton, Paris et al).

It's interesting that President-elect Obama wants to avoid surprises from members of his administration.....surprises of the type(s) that came from his writings and his wife's writings. Could he be more conservative than 52% or so of the voters?

Anonymous said...

As many posts (and a lot of blogs) have already pointed out, this type of personal info mining is already being done. The difference here is instead of just using Google, the vetting committee is asking the applicant to make a "full disclosure." Of more concern to me is what might happen if the aplicamt (in good faith) omits an item/name/etc. which is later found. Will this be grounds for termination and potential career ending disgrace? I am 100% certain I can't remember everyhing I have ever posted in the last 10 years!

Anonymous said...

Can we leave the political praise of President Obama to the politicians and pundits and keep this blog free of such political pandering? I am not interested in hearing anymore about Mr. Obama.

Anonymous in South Carolina

Anonymous said...

What political praise is anonymous in S.C. noting here? These comments said nothing positive or negative about Obama, just answered the question about Facebook. Might want to refrain from reading messages into posts?