One of the reasons that wealthy people from countries such as China and Russia are so keen to buy property in London is because England boasts an extremely robust legal system. For all this country’s faults, it’s recognised as having a stable government that doesn’t have a history of seizing private citizens’ property. The Law of the United Kingdom is a strong one.
The Equality Act of 2010 states that you’re legally protected from discrimination because of, among other factors (known as “protected characteristics”), age, race and sex. This may seem like a trifling, even obvious thing to us now, but these laws are the result of years of hard work, sacrifice and, for a lot of people, persecution. It’s also the case that for most people, the value of these laws are only made clear when they need them – for which we should be thankful. Nobody wants to be on first name terms with their local fire fighter.
However, the flip side of having a legal system is that we can easily take it for granted and allow assaults on it to go unchecked.
Uber gets all the headlines for effectively rolling back years of employee rights progression. To summarise quickly, the company considers its drivers as self-employed customers rather than employees, which allows them to bypass regulations concerning wage and holiday requirements, health and safety issues (such as sufficient rest and maximum hours worked per week) and supplying insurance.
Just this week (Monday 9 May) Uber and Lyft, which is a similar company, picked up their toys and left Austin, Texas in a huff after citizens voted in favour of ridesharing companies having to fall under local government regulation instead of being trusted to self-regulate. The two companies had spent $9 million trying to get voters on their side.
While cases such as this get the headlines, I feel that what Linkedin is doing is overlooked, and shouldn’t be. That’s not to say that LinkedIn works with the same intent as Uber – in my eyes the consequences of Linkedin have been unintentional and there’s no way of controlling it.
For those not in the know, Linkedin is social networking for professionals. It has a business-facing front end where you write out your CV and work history and other people can ‘recommend’ you. It’s a great idea and it was an inevitable one, but my issue stems from the fact that it’s now used as a recruiting tool. Not only that, but when advertising for potential employees, employers will screen candidates by checking their Linkedin profile – if they have one.
So how do we know that people aren’t being discriminated against? Is it so hard to imagine a company only asking attractive candidates to interview, or denying somebody a chance because they’re in a wheelchair, which would necessitate expenditure to make the workplace wheelchair accessible? And that’s not even considering the issue of race.
In a lot of countries it’s normal to attach your photo to your CV, whereas it isn’t in the UK – something we should take pride in. But with LinkedIn this situation is being reversed. Websites such as Facebook and Twitter aren’t aimed at anybody in particular and it’s as normal to find somebody who doesn’t use these as it is otherwise, but not having a Linkedin profile at a networking event? What have you got to hide?
As far back as 2010, Mark Zuckerberg said that privacy was “no longer a social norm”. And he of all people should know. (Never mind the security compound he lives in, complete with giant walls.)
What people choose to share about themselves online isn’t – and shouldn’t be – something that a government should aim to control. The internet has been one of the most shocking advancements ever – it seems churlish to even attempt to write out a list of comparisons. Crop rotation? The printing press, perhaps? In every sense imaginable the genie is out of the bottle and for most of us, we just have to see where it takes us because nobody is going to control this thing. But does that mean we have to take such a neoliberal view towards the laws our ancestors fought tooth and nail for?