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Judges Rule Google Search by Employer Not Illegal 185

Posted by Zonk
from the mebbe-you-shouldn't-be-talking-about-that-online dept.
An anonymous reader passed us a link to an Ars Technica article about a failed lawsuit over a Google search. A federal circuit court of appeals has upheld the original ruling against David Mullins, who claimed that Googling his name constituted ex parte communications prior to firing him. "Through a series of events, Mullins' employer found that he had misused his government vehicle and government funds for his own purposes — such as sleeping in his car and falsifying hotel documents to receive reimbursements, withdrawing unauthorized amounts of cash from the company card, and traveling to destinations sometimes hundreds of miles away from where he was supposed to be ... Mullins' supervisor provided a 23-page document listing 102 separate instances of misconduct. Mullins took issue with a Google search that Capell performed just before authorizing his firing. During this Google search, Capell found that Mullins had been fired from his previous job at the Smithsonian Institution and had been removed from Federal Service by the Air Force."
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Judges Rule Google Search by Employer Not Illegal

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  • Does that mean (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MECC (8478) * on Friday May 11, 2007 @08:43AM (#19081343)
    Does that mean google searches by employee are okay too?

    • by Deltaspectre (796409) * on Friday May 11, 2007 @08:50AM (#19081393)
      Sure, but what are you going to do? Fire your boss?
      • No, trying to be manipulative has you becoming like the PHB.
        However, the phrase "due diligence" comes to mind.
        As with testing your code, the sooner you can spot the bug, the more gooder.
      • by Bloke down the pub (861787) on Friday May 11, 2007 @09:21AM (#19081675)
        Well in Soviet Russia, that did happen once.
        • I believe it was the "Beowulf Cluster Revolt". Apparantly it all started when the employee offered to give the boss a sign he'd made for him (saying, "here's your sign"), and he was just being an insensitive clod about.....then, there was this third event that no one really recalls but the result was PROFIT!
      • Re:Does that mean (Score:5, Insightful)

        by drgonzo59 (747139) on Friday May 11, 2007 @09:40AM (#19081881)
        Yes, I "fired" a certain Healthcare IT company that was interviewing me after finding out by Googling that they practically run a sweatshop, paying a salary and making people work up to 60hrs/week. They especially love H1B individuals and make them slave day and night, at least for 5 years and if they complain they are fired and are asked to repay the 'legal' fees incurred for their H1B visa processing. I am a citizen, so that would not have concerned me directly but any company that does that is not a place I want to work.

        So yeah, if I had not known, I would have been unpleasantly surprised by the working environment. Google works both ways.

        Most of the time people complain how "Google has ruined my chances ... blah blah" what they don't realize is that Google can also be used to ones' advantage. If Google can 'store' bad stuff it can also store 'good' stuff. It is not hard at all to create some fictitious online profile (use your name and go to some charity and help the poor kittens forums) so everyone one searching for your name will end up seeing that and think 'oh, how sweet!' Yeah, I thought about starting a personal PR business to manage people's online presense and mold it to whatever they want to appear, but I like programming better...Or at least that's what my online "presense" suggests ;-)

        • a certain Healthcare IT company

          Is that the one where one of the company president's memo to the company got leaked to the media several years ago? The one where he said he expected the parking lot to be full from 7 to 7 and meetings should only be held before 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m. so they didn't interrupt work? Their name wouldn't be something like C*rn*r by any chance? I walked away from them too. They use Disney management techniques. Very goofy (pun intended). Dress code was business formal or

          • in some states a work place can not force you to buy shirts and other things need to for the job.
          • Right out of college (four years ago), I actually interviewed with them and received a job offer at their KC office. It was tempting (the pay was nearly what I'm currently making now), but I ultimately turned them down since I didn't want to relocate to Kansas City.

            Right afterwards, I found that infamous memo [fuckedcompany.com], and it affirmed my decision.

            I still shudder whenever I think about how close I was to accept a position there.
        • Re:Does that mean (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Lumpy (12016) on Friday May 11, 2007 @11:11AM (#19083489) Homepage
          "Google has ruined my chances ... blah blah"

          no google CANT ruin your chances. YOU ruin your chances.

          when an employer google's you and finds you are a contributing editor to high times and run the largest Hemp growing blog on the web. Or finds your myspace and tells how you stole 3 laptops at your last job and bragged about screwing the man, drink like a fool and brag about going to work drunk,etc.....

          THOSE ruin your chances.

          google-ing me shows up that I am a Scientist, punk band drummer, am missing in IRAQ, design websites, photography, a scriptural scholar, and a editor at a prominent magazine.

          Only if you post your own crap or are so incredibly bad that others post it on the net as a warning to others does the stuff get out there and get indexed. If someone knew the names I used for my research they would turn up my usenet posts going all the way back to the mid 90's but googling my name get's you lots of background noise and maybe my public blog that is sanitized for consumption.

          This guy must have been a scumbag to get lots of positive hits on him in google or had a uncommon name like Xyzbt Fazatl'rt
          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by PC-PHIX (888080) *

            This guy must have been a scumbag to get lots of positive hits on him in google or had a uncommon name like Xyzbt Fazatl'rt

            According to the story, his name was David Mullins. So I guess, he was in fact a scumbag!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TrippTDF (513419)
        While your comment is funny, it's not a bad idea to Google a potential employer. I made the mistake of taking a job once without doing such, and I discovered the people that I was working for had quite a sorted professional and personal past that greatly effected how they managed the company. Working there was beyond awful, and had I done the Google search during the interview process, I would not have taken the job.
    • When working for the government as a permanent employee, you are usually entitled to a full and fair hearing, with an attorney, before your boss, who is acting as a pseudo-judge (the deciding official). Thus, in order for the hearing to be fair, the deciding official must not go outside the bounds of admissible evidence when deciding the case. Remember, evidence of prior bad acts is generally inadmissible in court!

      From the decision [emphasis mine]:

      "No ex-parte communication occurred when the Deciding

      • Remember, evidence of prior bad acts is generally inadmissible in court!

        Do keep in mind that what constitutes admissible evidence varies greatly by the nature of the 'court'. Civil court, for example, has somewhat looser standards than criminal court. Adminstrative pseudo courts are bound mainly by the manual and statute establishing them, and to an extent by legal decisions like the one in the TFA.
  • it wasn't (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Friday May 11, 2007 @08:49AM (#19081387)
    So according to him it wasn't the 102 documented instances of misbehavior that were presented to him before the Googling that did him in. It was the Googling that confirmed his pattern of behavior that did him in...Give me a break, guy. Not to mention, with a resume like that, he's bound to be hired as CEO for some major pharmaceutical company or something...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by crawling_chaos (23007)

      Not to mention, with a resume like that, he's bound to be hired as CEO for some major pharmaceutical company or something...
      Nah, with a resume like that he's got Administration Official written all over him.
      • by arivanov (12034)
        His next job should be NASA PR or a Scientific Advisor. Seems to be well qualified for that.
      • by bhsurfer (539137)
        I wouldn't be surprised if Wolfowitz's job at the World Bank is up for grabs soon, maybe he should look there. He seems to have what it takes. Of course, Ken Lay's would be a good one for someone like this if the position (and the company) hadn't been "eliminated" by people with similar ethical qualities.
      • by moxley (895517)
        "Administration Official?" Hardly...

        Shit, with a resume like that it's more like "President;" add in the whiskey, cocaine, and DUI and he's a shoe in.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by neersign (956437)
      I got about halfway through thinking that this guy was a politician...
    • I was prepared to be sympathetic for the guy when I started reading the article but he ends up sounding like a childish jerk. He even uses the 4 yr old's favorite excuse, "But everyone else was doing it too!"

      The thing I can't understand is why his employer, NOAA, had to use Google to find out about his past employement record. Isn't that sort of information shared between government agencies?

      He won't get hired as a CEO, maybe as a junk bond investor though.
  • by stm2 (141831) <sbassi@genesdigi ... com minus author> on Friday May 11, 2007 @08:52AM (#19081413) Homepage Journal
    What about googling before hiring? Could be more efective.
    • by kalirion (728907)
      I hope my future employers never do that. Someone decided to upload my undergraduate thesis to a public online repository, and to say I'm not proud of that thing would be an understatement.
    • by element-o.p. (939033) on Friday May 11, 2007 @01:03PM (#19085787) Homepage
      It's happened to me. I was in a job interview and the interviewer made a passing reference to a piece of information he could only have known about by visiting my web page (music I had posted on-line). He then added "Not that we Googled you or anything."

      While I was a little surprised to find out that they had Googled me, I wasn't upset by it -- in fact, I thought it was kind of funny, and in hindsight, I figured it was probably a good idea. And like someone else posted above, it works both ways. You can Google them (both the company, and your future potential boss/coworkers) to make sure the new environment will be a good fit for you, too.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by devilspgd (652955) *
        I've been known to research a person before I buy something from them. In one case I declined to purchase a laptop/tablet after finding a blog post about how many times they'd dropped their laptop and it kept ticking, but the screen was starting to flicker when it was rotated to a certain angle.

        An employer/employee relationship is far more risky for both parties, I fail to why any potential employer wouldn't do the same.
  • by iknownuttin (1099999) on Friday May 11, 2007 @08:52AM (#19081421)
    Does this decision give the green light for employers to start Googling their employees?

    A lot of employers do a search before hiring. If not on Google then with ChoicePoint.

    That's one of the reasons those Duke lacrosse players were fighting their charges so hard. One of their parents told Leslie Stahl on "60 Minutes" after claiming that this case would ruin their kids life, that in the future when they apply for a job, the employer will Google their kids name and this case will come right to the top.

    That's one of the dark sides of the internet. If you get accused of a crime, it's all over the internet. And even if you're acquitted, charges dropped, or found innocent, you're now all over the internet, and people will see that and immediately assume the worst.

    Yeah, the guy in TFA appears to have committed all of those acts, but what about folks falsely accused or in the wrong place at the wrong time?

    What was it? Keep repeating a lie and it becomes true? Well, on the internet, it's donw automatically.

    • by Applekid (993327) on Friday May 11, 2007 @09:09AM (#19081573)
      Hear hear.

      And, when not hired for a job, do they EVER get told WHY exactly they weren't hired?

      HR: "Sorry Mr. Jones, we didn't hire you because you murdered those children."
      Candidate: "Oh, that again. I was AQUITTED, you know. The real killer CONFESSED and is currently serving time."
      HR: *calls security*

      No, they'd just get a happy little letter that they've declined to offer a job and will keep his information on file for x months blah blah blah.

      It's all set to be the new discrimination. What used to be "we can't hire blacks, they'll steal from us!" now becomes "we can't hire people with any kind of bad press around them, they're obviously trouble!"

      I wouldn't even be surprised if there were companies which specialize in revenge, where you can google bomb someone's name and associate it with something unpleasant for a fee.
      • by iknownuttin (1099999) on Friday May 11, 2007 @09:28AM (#19081739)
        And, when not hired for a job, do they EVER get told WHY exactly they weren't hired?

        You remind me of a friend of mine. in the late '90s when everyone, including him, was making great money, he was saving and investing - while his colleagues were buying BMWs and big houses.

        When the bubble burst, he shrugged his shoulders, and took some time off - he was tired from working 60+ hours a week for years at a time. He had plenty of money saved so it wasn't any big deal. He did charity work, read, bummed around, got into shape, got a masters degree, etc....

        When he started getting low on money, he tried to get a job again. Nothing.

        He got feedback from two people - one indirectly and one directly.

        The first guy just told a friend of his that if he was any good, he would never have been out of work. The second person, a doctor friend, just came out and asked, "Are you an alcoholic?"

        The worst is ALWAYS assumed. And it's a sad thing with this society where the thought of somebody being good with their money and wanting to take time off every once in a while is actually a detriment to one's career. In a way, we are slaves to the corporate system. If you don't play the game correctly, you lose.

        My friend is now doing menial work and trying to start a couple of businesses. He's actually happier overall. He does miss the 6 figure income, as do we all! Luckily, his wife is in medical.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by liquidpele (663430)
          It's not hard to get around that, you just have to have that time accounted for on your resume. Basically, put on there that you did freelance work as webdesigner/charity event organizer/whatever. As long as you say you were doing *something* (even something you can't prove) you're usually fine. It's those long periods of no work that people assume one of 2 things:
          1) He was in rehab/jail
          2) We couldn't get a job because other employers know something we don't, we'll follow their lead.
          • We couldn't get a job because other employers know something we don't, we'll follow their lead.
            Of course that can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

            Happened to me - had to turn work down for family reasons and then the market tanked just as I was trying to get back into action. It can drive you a bit mad - I wondered if someone was spreading rumours about me or something.
        • by aaarrrgggh (9205)
          After the bubble burst, I traveled for two years, given similar situations.

          To this day, I still get teased for going into the interview for the position I eventually accepted with dreadlocks, suit, and my general discomfort with wearing shoes. (Funny what flip flops on the beach for a couple years does to your tolerance of shoes.) While all the interviews I had originally set up might have had the impression that "What the hell was I thinking?", I got offers for seven of the eight positions I interviewed
        • by Comboman (895500)
          Women face this all the time when they take a fews years off to start a family. Resume 'holes' do raise red flags, so it's best to preemptively explain them in your covering letter (went back to school, tried to start my own business, took care of sick family member, etc).
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Proteus (1926)

            it's best to preemptively explain them in your covering letter

            Sadly, lots of employers don't even bother to read cover letters in the first pass. If you're lucky, they skim them to find out why you're applying for the position.

            If there are employment holes greater than a month or two, your resume is likely to get round-filed before your cover letter is ever even looked at. It's even more true in companies that use software to pre-filter resumes.

            My advice, having worked as a hiring manager, is to explain "

            • by devilspgd (652955) *

              If you were really in jail, I can't help you - some employers will care, others won't, and there's nothing you can do to change their mind (usually).
              Find a way to work "engineer" and "license plate" into the same sentence and you're laughing.
      • by sethg (15187) on Friday May 11, 2007 @09:50AM (#19082019) Homepage
        Once upon a time, just about everyone lived in small communities. You would expect to live, work, and die in the same little town where your parents and your close relatives lived. Once you got a reputation in such a community, deserved or undeserved, it would probably follow you for life.

        Then we had the Industrial Revolution, big cities, relatively cheap transatlantic travel, etc., and all of a sudden it was possible--difficult, but possible--to make a clean break with your past and forge a new life. Many of the life-affecting judgements that were previously made by busybody neighbors were instead made by impersonal bureaucrats.

        Now, all sorts of personal information about us online and searchable, and folks who grew up with the Net are less inhibited than their elders about putting more personal stuff online [nymag.com]. It looks like the Internet is putting us all in the same virtual small town. I don't think that's an entirely good thing, but I don't see how it can be prevented.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Bob-taro (996889)

        I wouldn't even be surprised if there were companies which specialize in revenge, where you can google bomb someone's name and associate it with something unpleasant for a fee.
        There is, I saw it on Dr. Phil. A woman had a website offering various services to get revenge on ex-boyfriends/ex-husbands. IIRC, putting damaging information about them (true or untrue) on the web was one of the tactics.
    • by pytheron (443963) on Friday May 11, 2007 @09:16AM (#19081641) Homepage

      That's one of the dark sides of the internet. If you get accused of a crime, it's all over the internet. And even if you're acquitted, charges dropped, or found innocent, you're now all over the internet, and people will see that and immediately assume the worst.


      Newspapers in the UK are just as bad. People get accused of something, and before they have gone to trial, their name is mud. Now, alot of the time when they are found innocent, or the paper had a case of mistaken identity, if they even bother to point this out, it's in the tiniest retraction wedged inbetween some columnist and the sports.

      I think it would be fairer if they were forced to commit the same amount of coverage to the real outcome.


      As long as people remember that popular opinion (which most tabloids come under) is not fact, then things aren't too bad. If a google search comes up with a trend of behaviour, don't take it as gospel but use this as a basis for a more thourough background check via more conventional means, e.g: contacting past employers.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by phaggood (690955)
        Newspapers in the UK are just as bad. People get accused of something, and before they have gone to trial, their name is mud. Now, alot of the time when they are found innocent, or the paper had a case of mistaken identity, if they even bother to point this out, it's in the tiniest retraction wedged inbetween some columnist and the sports.

        And if I were ever to have this problem, the first thing I'd do create a single-page website with the retraction blown up to a full-screen jpeg, put a link to all the
    • There are two possible solutions to this:
      1. Change your name.
      2. Flood the Internet with bad information about everyone, so that *all* the job candidates a potential employer searches for have bad press.

      I often wonder about people with non-unique names who are interviewed. When a potential employer googles "John Smith", does he just give up because there are too many hits, or does Mr. Smith become unemployable?

      If the solution we decide upon is #2, then we need to start the flooding now. Any decent blog s

      • by AlecC (512609)
        Hasn't this already happened to people who are on the "No Fly" list because they share a name with someone the authorities suspect (maybe rightly) of being a terrorist?
    • by bahwi (43111)
      Doesn't matter if it's true or not, there's always another applicant with a claner record. So what you were proven innocent, I can find another guy with no record at all.
    • http://g27radio.blogspot.com/2007/04/think-youre- s afe.html [blogspot.com]

      That blog is written by a Slashdotter. He posted it in under an identity fraud article a while ago. I linked to his first post.

      In short rather that someone stealing his identity to make money, someone stole his identity and used it when arrested. The victim has been turned down for job after job with no reason given. He found out when he was being harassed by the cops and decided to do a search for himself and found numerous warrants, DUIs, etc.
  • Wahhh! Wahhh! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by smooth wombat (796938) on Friday May 11, 2007 @08:53AM (#19081423) Homepage Journal
    I got caught and I don't like it. I want to be able to steal from my employer and rip the taxpayers off. Everyone does it so why should I be penalized?

    Wahhh! Wahhh!

    For as much as we rip government agencies for wasting money, three cheers for NOAA for tracking down this asshat and firing him.

    The real question is, and one which is not answered in the article, are they going to get the money back from him?
  • Optimist (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Livius (318358)
    If they found something about a different person who had the same name, he might have an outside chance of making a complaint.

    But from the sounds of it, he should lay low and be thankful there aren't criminal charges. A Google search is no different from, say, searching newspaper clippings by hand. If reality is prejudicial to his employment, it's not his employer's fault.
    • A Google search is no different from, say, searching newspaper clippings by hand.
      Apart from the fact that the former's considerably less effort - hence the latter is significantly less likely to happen.
  • This is bullshit (Score:2, Insightful)

    by disasm (973689)
    All this employee protection crap is bull shit. An employer should be able to hire/fire anyone they want without having to go through a bunch of red tape. Same thing with unemployment. There is no reason that an employer should ever have to continue to pay someone they fired because the person is too lazy to get off their butt and find a job. Come on, enough with employee rights, where are our employer rights... And don't get me started on the double taxation that happens with self employment tax. This coun
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by svendsen (1029716)
      While I agree with the firing/hiting and double taxation I disagree with unemployment. My story:

      Working for a company in the UK (only 40 people os nice and small), they partnered with a University in the states to develop software for phase 2 to 3 clinical drug trials. The University wanted someone on site to do business requirements, training, writing documentation, UAT, support and installation. I got the job. Pretty slick, own suite, at the customer site in an Academia settings 10 mins form wher
      • I'm with you, I've been through a similar-ish situation. I was slowly working my way up the IT ranks and finally got a direct hire job (as opposed to all the contract work before) as a junior level software developer for a small company along with 2 more senior level guys. I was always being told how good of a job I was doing both for the quality of the work and speed with which I was getting it done.

        5 months later I buy my first house. 1 after that? We all get laid off due to changes in the way the comp
    • by Grashnak (1003791)

      All this employee protection crap is bull shit. An employer should be able to hire/fire anyone they want without having to go through a bunch of red tape.

      Its true. If those six year old kids didn't want to work in a coal mine, they should have started their own businesses. People should just be grateful that employers are kind enough to hire them, and if they don't like it, they can leave and find another job. Clearly business knows whats best for people. Just ask all those Enron employees how they're enjoying the benefits of the shares they were made to buy.

    • by Lockejaw (955650)
      Since there are far fewer employers than employees, the employers are perceived as dominant in the labor market, and nobody really thinks they should need any special protection. I expect promoting small business will help fix this.
    • by inviolet (797804)

      Same thing with unemployment. There is no reason that an employer should ever have to continue to pay someone they fired because the person is too lazy to get off their butt and find a job. Come on, enough with employee rights, where are our employer rights...

      Your employer doesn't pay unemployment benefits; you do. As you work.

      While it is indeed the employer that sends in the check every month to the unemployment fund, the money being sent was taken (one way or another) from your benefits, as a cost of

      • by sheldon (2322)

        While it is indeed the employer that sends in the check every month to the unemployment fund, the money being sent was taken (one way or another) from your benefits, as a cost of hiring you. Same with Social Security [sic], Medicare, and prepaid^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hhealth insurance.

        This is only true, if your paycheck would increase if none of these were mandatory, necessary or otherwise required.

        What do you think the chances of that happening are?

        I think we can all agree the likelihood of that is slim to none.

      • by sholden (12227)
        "Your employer doesn't pay unemployment benefits" and "as a cost of hiring you" contradict each other, since the cost of hiring you is borne by the employer.
    • by Miseph (979059)
      See, it's like this:

      It used to be that employers had all the rights, but then they learned that they could get away with all sorts of nasty tricks that not only increase profitability but ALSO put their employees into a state of permanent poverty so that they couldn't afford to quit or unionize no matter how miserable or mistreated they were. Things like intentionally having more workers show up than will be needed and sending the rest home without pay in order to save time and effort on proper scheduling,
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dragonslicer (991472)

      An employer should be able to hire/fire anyone they want without having to go through a bunch of red tape.
      In most states in the United States, they can, other than for a specifically defined list of discriminatory reasons, such as race, gender, and age.
    • The "hire/fire at will" concept is a sound one. But that doesn't mean the systems we have in place are all "unjust" either.
      Unemployment wages come out of an employee's paycheck anyway! When they file for unemployment, there are restrictions on how long they can collect it, and how long they must have worked continuously before they qualify for it in the first place. That's to ensure they've paid enough in to the system to warrant taking it back out.

      If you, as an employer, are "discouraged with the threat
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      All this employee protection crap is bull shit. An employer should be able to hire/fire anyone they want without having to go through a bunch of red tape.

      In the US, they do, pretty much. There are a few exceptions, relating to discrimination against those frequently discriminated against. Remember the recent Best Buy decision to fire their higher-paid salespeople? That's legal.

      Same thing with unemployment. There is no reason that an employer should ever have to continue to pay someone they fired becau

    • All this employee protection crap is bull shit. An employer should be able to hire/fire anyone they want without having to go through a bunch of red tape.

      At least in goverment service - this would mean a return to the Bad Old Days of the patronage system. There's a reason why the 'red tape' is there. (One could argue the red tape is excessive, etc... etc..., but the reason for its existence is a valid one.)
    • Just so you know, unemployment is an insurance policy, not something that an employer pays directly.

      To give you an idea of how little of a deal this is, for my company, I pay about $150 in unemployment insurance premiums per YEAR.

      You are probably thinking of severance pay, which some employers offer as a benefit, but it is certainly not required.
    • by ebuck (585470)
      So if someone with power asks you to do something illegal (so he can disassociate himself from the fallout, should it occur) and you refuse, should they be allowed to fire you and replace you with someone who will?

      This case is a perfect example of setting a precedent using a very bad example. This guy would have been found guilty without the Google search, but he's trying to get the case thrown out on a technicality. His only defence is that data gathered from Google is not verified to be truthful, but th
  • In other news ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ... water is still wet. You can't claim ex parte on such public information. It's been tried and failed on newspaper archive searching more than fifty years ago. I'm guessing Mullins had little to challenge the claims made by his employeer or the information found so he's now pulling at straws.


    Honestly nothing to see here ...

  • So what (Score:5, Insightful)

    by packetmon (977047) on Friday May 11, 2007 @09:00AM (#19081495) Homepage
    With all of the information people are throwing out there about themselves, they deserve to have it used against them in any shape form or fashion. If you want to be the moron who posts everything about yourself on YouTube, MySpace, Facebook and all those other sites, you have nothing but yourself to blame. They fired me for using drugs! If you're the moron with a picture of you happily holding a bong on MySpace and expected no one but friends to see it, you shot your own self in the foot. Its amazing the level of stupidity some people can get to then come back around and point the finger at everyone but themselves. On other notes... Information pertaining to just about anything on the planet is already readily available. Court records, financial information... All this misuse/abuse of information is made possible by the same people bitching who often turn their cheeks when future misuse in the making is present [com.com]. You didn't say nothing then... Why bother bitching now... YOU GAVE AWAY YOUR RIGHTS TO PRIVACY BY NOT ACTING BEFORE WHY BITCH ABOUT IT NOW?
  • I've always thought that some of the questions you're allowed to ask (more importantly, the ones you're not allowed to ask) when you call for references are a bit silly. The general rule seems to be that if the person was great at their job, you can talk them up. But if they were bad at their job, or did something outrageous that got them fired, about all you can say is that you wouldn't recommend them for rehire.

    I don't know if that's because of some privacy laws, or whether that's just standard "don't
    • by Ash Vince (602485)
      But if they were bad at their job, or did something outrageous that got them fired, about all you can say is that you wouldn't recommend them for rehire

      The reason for this is usually libel laws. If you say the the person was crap at their job, and it costs them getting another one, you have to be able to prove what you have said in a court of law. Since most sane people want to stay as far away from court as possible, it is better to refuse a reference rather than risk giving a bad one.

      Even if you think you
    • by rueger (210566)
      I live in a right to work state, employers can fire people at any time for any reason...

      Wow, I've never seen "Right Work" defined so simply before....

      Anyhow, the norm in many jurisdictions is to give neither positive nor negative recommendations, only to confirm that a person had been employed, in what position, and for how long.

      Although it's tempting to say "We'll only give a recommendation if it is positive, and say nothing if it's negative," you create a situation where not commenting implies t
    • I live in a right to work state, employers can fire people at any time for any reason
      I'm going to suggest that you look up the proper definition of the terms "right to work" and "employment at will". :)
  • I can't be the only person whose reaction to the article is to google 'David Mullins', and discover that it's a reasonably common name, shared by the professor of housing policy at Birmingham University, the director of academic administration at Warwick, a 1991 Stanford math grad student, a London-based artist, and the ex-vice-chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

    I think it's distinctly unprofessional for an organisation to record the fact that it fired someone in a document on the Google-ac
    • by rob1980 (941751)
      I can't be the only person whose reaction to the article is to google 'David Mullins', and discover that it's a reasonably common name, shared by the professor of housing policy at Birmingham University, the director of academic administration at Warwick, a 1991 Stanford math grad student, a London-based artist, and the ex-vice-chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

      If they found out via Google that somebody named David Mullins was fired from several jobs, they can easily go back to the guy'
    • I googled it too. Did you ever find the "Air Force" removal from civil service? I couldn't find it after, like you, I saw how much "chaff" came up with it. I just thought it was odd that you could find someone's federal service removal online.
  • Google was able to add an extremely loud "Ahhh Shit!!!!" and "...but, Judge...!!??" to their new 'layered' sounds database, coincidentally matching the co-ordinates of the court house where the recent hearings took place...
  • by Oxygen99 (634999) on Friday May 11, 2007 @09:18AM (#19081653)
    During this Google search, Capell found that Mullins had been fired from his previous job at the Smithsonian Institution and had been removed from Federal Service by the Air Force."

    That's shocking. What sort of Draconian employment termination policies are in action here? Removed from federal service by the air force? Usually, I'd just have a quiet word to let the employee know their services are no longer required.

    "Security, escort Mullins from the office. Yes, of course I mean with the F-16s..."
  • by zerofoo (262795) on Friday May 11, 2007 @09:22AM (#19081681)
    I expected more from the slashdot community on this topic. Lots of posts suggest that if you put anything in a public space, you shouldn't expect privacy in your professional life.

    Here is the problem; What if you didn't put the information out there? Remember the school principal who sued a bunch of students for putting up a fake myspace page? What would you say if the board of education fired this guy because of the content on the page?

    I've seen some great "photoshopped" pictures that were very believable. Would you like an HR person to make an employment decision about you based on a fake picture or a malicious blog entry?

    Employers, much like students doing research, should only use verifiable authoritative sources for personnel information. The internet (most of it) falls very short of this standard.

    -ted
    • by cmat (152027)
      Agreed. While searching for information on employees/employers via the internet is a boon to both sides, in a court of law this information must necessarily be backed up by verifyable sources (i.e. in this case his previous employers must be willing to make an official statement on the reasons for his dismissal). The same rules for regular research on the net apply: use it to broaden your awareness, but not to prove your point.
  • Would this even be an issue if it wasn't a government job?
  • 1. If it's on the internet, it's true.
    2. If it's NOT in the internet however, it doesn't exist.
  • Employee is a terminal fuckup. Discharged from Air Force. Stealing from employer and got caught. Why am I not surprised that he isn't smart enough to just take his licks and let it lay low ?

    I mean .. if this guy has been falsifying T&E reports and got caught .. thats fraud brother .. over $250 its a felony. Is this REALLY the button he wants to be pushing ?

    Meh ..

    Sounds to me like someone got caught and is trying for a sympathy play.
  • Is how can you reliably use Google to screen an employee? In this case, I suppose since the employer knew the guy, it was easier. But let's say you have someone on the slate called "John Smith", even with a middle name, it'll bring up dozens of other people with the same name. How can employers even discriminate.
  • Capell found that Mullins had been fired from his previous job at the Smithsonian Institution


    Don't they usually check out your references and previous employers BEFORE they hire you!? The whole point is to learn something about the character of the person you know nothing about. Once they already work for you and have show themselves to be a liar and thief you don't need a reference or google search to tell you that.
  • Google yourself from time to time and have incorrect information removed. Not that this will get everything bad removed. But if you've kept a copy of the letter/e-mail you've sent out and you can show that a subsequent sarch of this information cost you a job or contract, you can sue for damages.

    On the other hand, if the information is correct, that'll teach you (or the next person) what the consequences of ones actions can be.

    In real life, most people take rumors and inuendo with a grain of salt. They

  • I'm more curious about why all this information was out there to be Google'd in the first place. Where did they find info on his employment history and reasons for being fired?
    Was he an idiot and posted it all to his LJ, or did someone leak his personal info?

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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