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New Zealand Court Orders Facebook Disclosure To Employer 243

Posted by timothy
from the employment-at-will dept.
An anonymous reader writes with a story out of New Zealand: "Gina Kensington was sacked by Air New Zealand earlier this year following a dispute over sick leave she took to care for her sister. She said she did not misuse sick leave, and went to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) seeking reinstatement. Air New Zealand responded by demanding to see her Facebook and bank details. Kensington refused, saying it did not have that information when it dismissed her and that 'it is well accepted in New Zealand there are general and legal privacy expectations about people's personal and financial information.'" At least in the U.S., Facebook isn't keen on employers getting access to employees' Facebook account details.
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New Zealand Court Orders Facebook Disclosure To Employer

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  • by Kardos (1348077) on Saturday August 10, 2013 @10:59PM (#44533687)

    WILL be used against you.

    • Which apparently includes all financial transactions as well

    • by rudy_wayne (414635) on Sunday August 11, 2013 @12:13AM (#44533889)

      WILL be used against you.

      So maybe it would be a good idea to not post every detail about your life on the Internet.

      Maybe it would be any even better idea to not post ANY info about your personal life.

      • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday August 11, 2013 @12:24AM (#44533925)

        Oh, there's plenty of details of my personal life online. My charity work. My breakthroughs in security research. The various projects of my spare time.

        Huh? No, they have very little to do with reality. And should a recruiter ever ask whether they are, I will answer truthfully. But to ask that, they'd first of all have to admit that they were trying to snoop on me with online means, which they never will.

        • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Sunday August 11, 2013 @04:29AM (#44534451) Journal

          Oh, there's plenty of details of my personal life online. My charity work. My breakthroughs in security research. The various projects of my spare time.

          Sounds similar to me. OK, I don't work in security and I'd be hesitant to call anything I did a breakthrough, but the principle's the same. I do have a public facing webpage. It has details about large amounts of work I've done in the past (I used to be academia), source code (local ang github) to various projects both professional and personal. A mini CV, places I've worked, people I've worked with and been boss of and so on.

          Huh? No, they have very little to do with reality. And should a recruiter ever ask whether they are, I will answer truthfully. But to ask that, they'd first of all have to admit that they were trying to snoop on me with online means, which they never will.

          Here's what I don't get. There's a difference between splattering your private life all over the internet and letting people who you are doing.

          Recruiting is all about who you are. I'd expect people coming to me with work to want to know more about me, examine my professional history and see that I am indeed capable of doing the job. Having them look is hardly snooping: would you just go into a very expensive transaction completely blind? Many people in my general line of work do curate some sort of public facing presence, though almost all of them never put quite as much effort into it as they feel they should (too busy etc).

          I'm not going to salt the information out there with junk because I expect for people to be able to find out about me. How else would then? But I'm not going to share with potential customers/employers or what my faviourite episode of My Little Pony is or whatever. It's easy not to post your private life online.

          • There's more you don't get. The person you commented on doesn't post a "real" private life on the internet, but a fake one. If anyone were to look him up, they'd find something plausible, non shocking boring information. Probably enough to leave him alone and not bother looking any further. That's the trick, not having a life that isn't worth hiding, but hiding behind a fake life.
        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          Unfortunately you could still get fired if they hire you based on any of this information and then discover it is false. The "you didn't ask" argument doesn't work I'm afraid. It would be better to say "no, that's someone else with the same name."

          • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday August 11, 2013 @06:01AM (#44534631)

            I never claim in any interview that this person was me. I never actually make any connection of that person with me. And if you hire me based on what you read online instead of what you get from the CV I send you, sorry, but you trust the internet more than the person you plan to hire? I guess you get what you deserve.

            • by Livius (318358)

              there's plenty of details of my personal life online

              I never actually make any connection of that person with me.

              So, is it your life, or an unrelated fictional life? Are you even clear yourself on the distinction?

        • by RCL (891376)

          And should a recruiter ever ask whether they are, I will answer truthfully. But to ask that, they'd first of all have to admit that they were trying to snoop on me with online means, which they never will.

          Why? I know a case when a person was asked about his github projects by recruiter (and that positively influenced his chances to get that job) - and I see nothing wrong with this. Isn't the whole idea of sites like github/sourceforge/etc to make your work (which you willfully shared) more discoverable?

      • by shentino (1139071)

        Or basically, respect the fact that your boss is the one with the power and gets to decide who to hire as he darn well pleases.

        Like it or not that is unfortunately the reality of an economy where unemployment is high and bosses can get away with being stinkers because they know they can get away with being jerks to people that are expendable.

        And if someone is willing to sell his soul to get a job, and you aren't, guess who gets hired?

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        Much as we dislike it many people clearly do enjoy that kind of social interaction. We should work towards a world where they can do it safely and privately (at least between friends), rather than just expecting people to become hermits.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Unless its public it shouldn't be legally permissible.

      And no employer should have access to your back records. Ever.

      • And no employer should have access to your back records. Ever.

        For athletes, stuntmen, martial artists and emergency/military personnel I'd say they're pretty relevant.

        The last thing you want is a fireman who can't go up a ladder on account of his lumbago's giving him gyp.

  • by rtb61 (674572) on Saturday August 10, 2013 @11:03PM (#44533701) Homepage

    What is surprising here us the court is making a summary judgement as to who is guilty until the prove their innocence. The unbelievable stretch in that allowing the airline access to information they didn't have in making their judgement to fire someone, as now somehow being proof of validity for firing them, is shockingly biased towards the airline and against the individual ie. we didn't know that but that's the reason why we sacked them. All that was required and should have been allowed was the companies policy regarding sick leave and the evidence obtained by the company to determine that she broke that policy, no further court ordered investigation should have been allowed.

    • by Maelwryth (982896) on Saturday August 10, 2013 @11:31PM (#44533759)

      It isn't a court. It's a quasi legal jump through these hoops before you can go to court so we can settle your case at a lower cost to the government.

      Firstly you go to the ERA [era.govt.nz] then to the Employment Court [justice.govt.nz].

  • by Skapare (16644) on Saturday August 10, 2013 @11:15PM (#44533731) Homepage

    ... you would want to work for.

    • by Stoutlimb (143245)

      There will always be someone hungrier who will take the job, regardless of how many people complain that these companies aren't worth working for. This is what corporations like McDonald's or WalMart, and obviously this NZ airline rely on. It may sound counter-intuitive, but somewhat a somewhat bad economy lets these companies flourish because there is less choice. In some ways the system is rigged against the common man, and regulation is required to put an end to such practice. The free market will NO

      • by shentino (1139071)

        The free market could sort it out just fine if new bosses could enter the market as consumers of labor. If workers could leave bad bosses, it would force employers to compete for talent.

        You need freedom on both sides, supply AND demand.

        And unfortunately, if being an asshole to your employees is profitable, the market will reward it.

        • But then isn't the only way that your situation could arise is if there are more jobs available than workers to fill those jobs?
          • by shentino (1139071)

            If there aren't enough jobs to go around, then yes, either labor is too expensive, or there's a restraint on demand for new workers.

    • These are NOT companies you would want to work for.

      Sure, of course. But perhaps it's marginally better than unemployment?

    • by dbIII (701233)
      Airlines are infamous for sacking stewardesses that get old, pregnant or put on enough weight for them to stop resembling fashion magazine models.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by karmawhore (122760)

        Airlines are infamous for sacking stewardesses that get old, pregnant or put on enough weight for them to stop resembling fashion magazine models.

        Having flown recently, I can assure you this unjust policy has been thoroughly done away with.

    • Actually they are (Score:4, Interesting)

      by thegarbz (1787294) on Sunday August 11, 2013 @06:33AM (#44534693)

      We hear this all the time. "You don't want to work for this company!" An entire judgement against a massive company as the result of one news article. Often these one news articles are the result of one stupid HR person in one small part of a small office and in an attempt to save face they took their actions to the extreme.

      Funny how we pass judgement based on the experience of 0.01% of the employees of the company.
      Funny how we pass judgement when we've heard only an article which covers one side of the story (I'm sure a company doesn't routinely fire all employees who take leave without some thought that it was improper).
      Funny how a post like yours always somehow is deemed insightful.

      The only thing really certain here is that this IS a company that this person wants to work for, or she wouldn't have taken them to the tribunal to get re-instated.

  • Counterargument (Score:5, Insightful)

    by recrudescence (1383489) on Saturday August 10, 2013 @11:33PM (#44533765)
    "That's fine. However, I suspect the company has ulterior motives behind this decision; therefore I would like to have all emails by the director and finance departments to go through with a lawyer and an accountant to prove their motives. If they have nothing to hide then they shouldn't object, and it's only fair since you believe handing over passwords and examining *MY* private communications with any party to be fair play. I look forward to receiving the company emails. Regards."
    Ha!
  • This is why... (Score:4, Informative)

    by MasseKid (1294554) on Saturday August 10, 2013 @11:42PM (#44533783)
    This is why courts are setup in tiers. This is why there are appeals. Because a stupid judge somewhere can't think hard enough to realize why this is dumb and the implications of the precedent they're setting. Luckily, the appeals courts generally sort this thing out before it goes too far off the rails.
    • Unless you're unlucky enough to draw the 5th Circuit.
    • by shentino (1139071)

      What if the judge uses the appeals process as a crutch to get cases over with in a hurry, but the appeals process uses the lower courts as a presumed good use of judicial discretion?

      It's a catch 22. High court trusts low court, low court trusts high court.

      I would much rather have no appeals and have each judge be forced to think through each case carefully, with huge penalties if they're proven corrupt or incompetent.

      We already saw Koh get fed up with the apple v. samsung suit enough to summary rule on eve

    • by MrL0G1C (867445)

      Actually, this is why you should have trained judges doing legal work and not some biased person that a politically motivated quango choose to head the tribunal.

      "Section 144 establishes the Mediation Service. It is currently run by the Department of Labour with the mediators being employees of the Department." from Wikipedia, it couldn't be much worse.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      Except this isn't a court. It's something between mediation and a tribunal.

  • Its obvious (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tyr07 (2300912)

    Someone tipped them off that she wasn't caring for her sister and was using it like a vacation. To what extent we don't know.
    An argument of 'I was smart and there's no way you could have known what I was up to, so you can't have fired me for that' is exceptionally child like.idea.

    • by shentino (1139071)

      Especially when in grown-up land it really doesn't matter. They can fire you anyway.

      What really needs to happen is for it to be illegal to even *attempt* to compel your workers to violate contracts with third parties.

      It's against facebook tos to give access to anyone else.

      • by Tyr07 (2300912)

        In Canada they cannot fire you without reason. They must follow a system of write ups to correct problems, and after so many they may terminate you with sufficent cause, or you can potentially fight it.

        Often they will lay you off instead so people are less inclined to fight it as they have EI as a backup until they find a new job.
        In theory you can fight the lay off as well. Examples would be in cases when they hire new staff to fill your position after you leave without notfiying
        you and giving you an opport

    • Re:Its obvious (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sociocapitalist (2471722) on Sunday August 11, 2013 @04:03AM (#44534369)

      Someone tipped them off that she wasn't caring for her sister and was using it like a vacation. To what extent we don't know.
      An argument of 'I was smart and there's no way you could have known what I was up to, so you can't have fired me for that' is exceptionally child like.idea.

      The argument of "You have no right to invade my privacy" is not a childlike idea.

      The importance here isn't whether this particular individual has actually taken care of her sister or gone on vacation. The question is, does the employer have the right to invade the employee's privacy for any reason.

      • The question is, does the employer have the right to invade the employee's privacy for any reason.

        When that employee has chosen to take them to court and the information they request could be extremely relevant to their defence then yes, that employer does have a right to the information. It is the company being sued here and whether they behaved well or not they have a right to the information they need to defend themselves. If she did not want to reveal this information then she should not have sued them or, in fact, but it on a public website like Facebook.

        • by Alef (605149)

          From what I can understand, what is being questioned by the employee are the grounds for her termination. If the grounds are valid, it shouldn't be any problem for the employer to present all the material they built the challenged decision on, for a court to review. I can't see why the fact that the employee is challenging the decision, is reason enough to let the company go fishing in the employees private data for other grounds for termination. Whether there exists other grounds or not is beside the point

        • by Solandri (704621)
          I'm actually on the company's side here (I believe it should be as easy/hard for a company to fire you as it is for you to quit a job). But I disagree with you. You're using the ends to justify the means - that if the woman did abuse her sick time for a vacation, then the employer has the right to that information.

          The company fired the woman - that has already happened. The question isn't whether the dismissal was in actuality justified. It's whether the dismissal was justified on the basis of the in
  • ...You need to be on my friends' list to see most of what I post, and you need a FB account to even see my main profile at all.

    People who aren't on my list will know that I have a couple radio shows...that's pretty much it.
    • by roc97007 (608802)

      ...You need to be on my friends' list to see most of what I post, and you need a FB account to even see my main profile at all.

      People who aren't on my list will know that I have a couple radio shows...that's pretty much it.

      Enh. I suspect that security is largely a sham on facebook.

  • My former boss and many of my co-workers are in my friends list. It's an extension of "if you don't want someone to see it, don't put it online". It's difficult to post in a public forum and then try to control who sees it. That's what "public" means.

    I've caught a company rep in a lie based on information from the public linkedin profies of two of their employees, and called them on it. See "public"...

    (Note that private communication to individuals is an entirely different thing.)

    That said, if a company

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