Employers in Germany will no longer be able to snoop on Facebook profiles to screen applicants.  (Source: The Guardian UK)

The law also prevents employers from using video surveillance in private locations like restrooms.  (Source: Boston News)

Germany's plan to roll out RFID-equipped national identification cards, which would allow the government to track individuals more easily, is creating controversy. Security experts complain that some information on the card may be easy to steal due to lax protections.  (Source: International Business Times)
One move draws praise from privacy advocates, the other concern

Germany's campaign to protect its citizens from corporate snooping has taken another step forward.  German publications Die Welt ("The World") and Süddeutsche Zeitung ("South German Newspaper") are reporting that the nation's Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière, has drafted a new privacy law that will restrict the kinds of info current and potential employers can gather. Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that the German cabinet will likely approve the measure on Wednesday, making it law.

The new law, among other things, will prevent employers from snooping on social networking site profiles -- such as MySpace or Facebook pages -- of current employees or job applicants.  From photos of drug abuse to complaints about former employers; such private information has frequently landed individuals in trouble with law enforcement or potential employers.

Employers are allowed to Google search employees still, but the information is out-of-bounds if the individual did not have control of it (for example criticism from a third party) or if it is considered too old.  Employers can still access employee pages specifically designed for professional networking or job seeking, such as 

The measure also bans businesses from employing video monitoring of employees in "personal" locations such as bathrooms, changing rooms and break rooms.  It mandates that if certain other locations 
are under video surveillance, that employees must be notified.  Similarly, the law puts limitations on email and telephone surveillance.  Employers must notify employees if they are going to snoop on these forms of communication.

The German law comes after discount retail chain LIDL was caught spying on employees in restrooms and collecting info on their personal lives.  National railway Deutsche Bahn and telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom (owner of the U.S. T-Mobile network) were also embroiled in surveillance cases.

Germany has recently taken a stricter stance on corporate privacy intrusions, investigatingApple's collection of users' locations via its iPhone and iPad devices.  It has also sued 
Facebook for what it views as misleading changes to the site's privacy policy.

The new anti-snooping law is perhaps the first of its kind and comes at a time when a recent 2009 CareerBuilder survey indicated that 45 percent of employers look at potential applicants' Facebook profiles and 35 percent have rejected candidates because of their findings.  Other past surveys have indicated similar snooping trends.

Despite Germany's progressive advances in preventing businesses from snooping, the nation is also rolling out another measure that's drawing criticism from privacy advocates.

Germany will be mandating that citizens carry RFID-equipped identification cards.  While identification cards (similar to U.S. driver's licenses) are nothing new, the RFID chips in the new cards will allow government officials to quickly track and locate individuals.  The government says the information stored on the chips will be used by police, customs, tax officials, and passport granting authorities.

Critics are concerned about the possibility of government tracking.  They also complain that the "basic access control" (BAC) protocol used to protect the information on the front of the card, including the picture and the name, has been shown to be easy to hack.  Hackers could steal this information from law-abiding citizens and create forged ID cards, potentially implicating the original owners in drug transactions and other crimes.  

Other information on the card is reportedly protected by a stronger undisclosed proprietary protocol, so it might not be quite that easy for criminal types to gather the necessary info to make a full forged duplicate ID.

German authorities point out that RFID chips are already used in German and U.S. passports and that a great deal of money could be saved by mandating citizens carry the chips.  They insist that their citizens' private data will be kept secure with the cards.

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