Ever since I've been in the business world, Germany has been one of the worst countries for companies to do business in.
The labor laws are so egregiously one sided (supporting employee interests) that one has to wonder how companies there actually survive. I remember a few years ago when we actually looked at the possibility of opening up an office there. After a week of being educated, the decision to stay out became the easiest call in Peppercom's 15 year history.
Some reasons include the fact that there seems to be more holidays for employees throughout the year then actual days they are supposed to go to work. Paternity leave laws are also absurd in this land of high performance cars and great beer. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for giving new mothers as much time off as they need. But, if memory serves, fathers are also guaranteed upwards of a year off at half pay as well. And, their job has to be held open upon returning to the workforce as well. Come on... give me a break. That is a real unnecessary hardship for businesses (especially small ones).
And now, this latest news that employers cannot leverage some social media tools like Facebook to learn more about potential employees throughout the hiring process, just takes the cake.
Yes, we all understand why German society is so focused on pro-employee (or consumer) rights. When a culture goes through an event as monumental as the Holocaust, one can understand how it needs to stay committed to being at the other end of the human rights/privacy spectrum. Germany has done just that by demonstrating to the world that its people will be treated with the utmost care concerning any and all privacy and human rights issues. But, it's now 65 years later. I wonder if some of these laws/regulations actually make sense any more.
The Facebook law also makes me think that the arm of the German government which made this decision simply isn't in-tune with the transparently digital world we live in today. This ruling greatly handicaps businesses that need to compete with the best international companies in fast moving and ultra challenging marketplace environments. As an employer, we try to leverage every tool available to understand (as best as possible) whether a candidate's skill set and personality would match well with our culture and the services we provide. If a candidate uses Facebook and/or other social networking sites to showcase an irresponsible (or worse) behavior, then that person has tipped a key hand about himself.
Understanding all of this, it doesn't really matter though. The other reality is that Facebook has obvious privacy controls which don't let just anyone see a person's profile or page unless permission is granted. So, even with these tools, it just isn't all that easy to leverage them by HR folks in the hiring process.
The plain reality (though) is that we don't need democratic governments imposing new, stringent laws that reign in transparency. Protecting employees/consumers' rights is a good thing. The German government should think about how to do this the right way in a modern 21st century open information architecture world.