Poked out of a job

A senior police officer has had a plum job offer withdrawn over his activities on social networking site Facebook. Inspector Chris Dreyfus of British Transport Police had been interviewed for the role of Chief Inspector at Bedfordshire Constabulary, but whilst checking references, his new employers found he'd previously been disciplined for posting details of his private life and sexuality on Facebook, and dropped him. This even though British Transport Police didn't really consider it that much of a problem when it first came to light last July. At the time, their spokesperson Simon Lubin said of the media hype around his case:

"I think it wasn’t a good idea for him to put up some details about his work, but it’s clearly a homophobic story. Why would he be a security risk? If you look at the profile there’s nothing wrong with it. I had a look at it and I think it’s been misrepresented - it’s a lot of homophobic nonsense." "What he had on there, there was nothing exceptional about it. He’s openly gay. I don’t know where the idea that it’s a security risk comes from, it’s rubbish. Some of the stuff they’re talking about is stuff that other people have written."
So the moral of this story is to be doubly-extra-careful with your privacy settings on sites like Facebook, as employers may be so panicked by the social networking site that they over-react to anything they perceive as an issue. Where you can't control who sees something, take time to consider whether what you're posting could be misinterpreted by anyone in a way which might come back on you. There's also a moral for employers about growing thicker skins and realising their staff are real people outside the 9 to 5, but we're not holding our breath on that one just now. So in the words of another wise policeman: "Hey, let's be careful out there!"
 
If you want to find out more about your risks and rights in social networking, check out our advice guide. Hat tip: Workblogging