Finding skeletons in candidates’ cupboards: new social-media scanning tool launched

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Ever wished you could trawl the entire web with a single click and find all those unsavoury bits of information on people that would preclude their suitability for a position? Or what about info that could give you a headstart in legal proceedings? The Irish designers of a new software tool to be released later this month say it can do just that.

Dublin-based tech company Cernam created its software Capture Preserve after identifying a gap in the market for capturing online evidence which can be used in potential legal proceedings. “Employees are using personal accounts on social networking sites, webmail systems and productivity tools for business, meaning business records are accumulating in those accounts and may be needed for litigation at some point,” Cernam’s chief executive Owen O’Connor said.

The software grabs evidence from web pages, web-based applications, and postings on message boards, blogs and social networks, and is said to be user-friendly for non-legal professionals such as HR managers. The developers said capturing evidence is designed to be as simple as clicking a browser button and customers don’t need to install software. Importantly, the tool is only designed to be used in scenarios where employees consent to having their company conduct limited searches such as all messages from a supplier between certain dates.

However, before employers get hot on the heels of employees’ social media postings, a recent Fair Work Australia (FWA) decision provided insight into what may be considered legitimate evidence of poor employee conduct on social media.

In Glen Stutsel v Linfox Australia Pty Ltd [December 2011], FWA ordered the employment of a dismissed employee to be reinstated despite evidence that the employee had made disparaging comments about his managers on his Facebook profile.

FWA found that the employee had made the comments in a forum which he held to be private and could therefore privately and candidly interact with his friends. While the ombudsman agreed the employee’s comments were “foolish”, it was found that the comments were not intended for public display, and therefore there were no valid grounds for termination.

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