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Can I Use Social Media to Check Someone’s Background?

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cybertrace

April 18, 2023 · 4 min read

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Can I Use Social Media to Check Someone’s Background? In Australia, using social media to check someone’s background can raise several legal issues. One of the primary concerns is privacy law. Australian privacy law regulates how personal information can be collected, used, and disclosed, and individuals have a right to control their personal information. When individuals use social media to gather information about someone, they may be collecting personal information without the person’s knowledge or consent, which can violate privacy laws.

Additionally, Australian law prohibits discrimination based on various characteristics, including age, race, sex, disability, and sexual orientation. When using social media to check someone’s background without consent, individuals may come across information that could lead to discriminatory behavior, which is illegal under Australian law.

Can I Use Social Media to Check Someone's Background, Australia, law, consent, social media

Another issue is defamation law. Defamation is when someone publishes or communicates something that harms a person’s reputation without their consent. When individuals use social media to gather information about someone and then publish that information, they may be at risk of committing defamation if the information harms the person’s reputation.

Furthermore, Australian law protects personal and sensitive information, such as health information, criminal records, and financial information. When individuals use social media to gather information about someone without consent, they may come across this type of information, which is not publicly available and can only be accessed in limited circumstances. Sharing this information without authorisation can result in legal consequences.

It’s also important to note that using social media to check someone’s background without consent can lead to bias and discrimination, which can have significant legal and ethical implications. For example, if an employer uses social media to gather information about a job applicant and makes a hiring decision based on that information, they may be discriminating against the applicant and violating anti-discrimination laws.

In recent years, there have been several high-profile cases in Australia that illustrate the potential risks of using social media to check someone’s background. One example is the case of a woman who was denied entry into the United States because of a tweet she posted about destroying America. The tweet was intended as a joke, but US immigration officials took it seriously and denied her entry into the country. This case highlights how social media posts can have real-world consequences and underscores the importance of being mindful of what we share online.

Can I Use Social Media to Check Someone's Background, Australia, law, consent, social media

Another example is the case of a woman who was sued for defamation after she posted negative comments about a business on Facebook. The woman claimed that the comments were protected under free speech, but the court found that the comments were defamatory and ordered her to pay damages. This case illustrates how social media posts can have legal consequences and underscores the importance of being cautious about what we post online.

However, private investigators are licensed by their state authority to investigate a third party without consent they and can to a limited extent investigate open source records which may include some social media content. Even investigators need to be careful what information is collected and provided to clients to avoid potential legal and regulatory compliance issues.  In this regard, an investigator can use social media as one source of information but also seek out other sources to verify the information they find online.

In conclusion, using social media to check someone’s background can be a useful tool, but it also raises several legal and ethical issues in Australia. Individuals must be aware of privacy laws, discrimination laws, defamation laws, and laws protecting personal and sensitive information. They must obtain information in an ethical and legal manner and be cautious about the information they share online. By taking these steps, individuals can minimise the risks associated with using social media to check someone’s background and make informed decisions.

Due to the many potential issues with using social media in background checks in Australia and many jurisdictions around the world, we recommend that you engage a licensed and insured professional investigator. This will reduce your potential personal liability and no doubt increase the results.

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