Call for ban on employers searching social networking sites

A group of children's charities has written to the government to ask for a ban on employers and universities looking up social networking websites for information on young people who have applied for positions.

The Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety, backed by charities including NCH and the NSPCC, has raised concerns over the practice of looking for information about potential employees on sites such as Bebo and MySpace, comparing it to looking at someone's diary.

In the letter, sent to Labour MP Margaret Moran, the coalition secretary John Carr writes: "When young people put up their personal profiles they are not thinking about job applications or university applications. Typically they are simply talking to their mates. Employers or admissions tutors who delve into these places are being highly and inappropriately intrusive."

He goes on to ask Moran if she would raise the issue with the government, and consider a Private Member's Bill, saying: "We believe the practice should be outlawed or, at the very least, major employers...should make clear that it is an unacceptable practice in their own organisations."

Research published by the Office of the Information Commissioner last November found that 71% of people aged between 14 and 21 would not want colleges or employers to do a web search on them before they had removed some material, and a report in The Times this year found that it was commonplace for employers to check social networking site profiles.

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