10/12/2011 07:13 EDT | Updated 12/12/2011 05:12 EST

Social Media Background Checks Should Not Be Allowed: BC Privacy Watchdog


VICTORIA - British Columbia's privacy watchdog says social media should not be used to help organizations make background checks.

Elizabeth Denham says using Facebook, Twitter and other sites to do the checks presents legal and other challenges.

The issue came to Denham's attention earlier this year when leadership candidates for the provincial New Democrats were asked to supply their login information so the party could check for possible embarrassing photos or postings.

The party told Denham it asked for Facebook passwords after an NDP candidate had to withdraw from the 2009 election because controversial pictures of himself were shown in the media.

The commissioner says the NDP looked at a large amount of information that was outdated, irrelevant and she's issued guidelines that show the risks of using the information, such as inaccuracies and collecting too much personal data.

She now expects organizations to adopt the guidelines so that there are standard practices that comply with privacy obligations.