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Age Detection Software Poses Big Risk for Employers

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on October 30, 2015 3:59 PM

If you're not already aware, a browser extension application was created recently to give a web user an estimation of an individual's age based on their LinkedIn information.

In this age of "there's an app for that," this is hardly a shocker. But did you ever stop to think about the possible legal implications?

Age Discrimination in Employment

Age-Insight -- the moniker of the extension in question -- has been the subject of some mixed review since its release.

Elizabeth Windham wrote a piece for North Carolina Journal of Law & Technology that makes a valid point: Age-Insight and technology like it (e.g. Microsoft's How-Old.net) could enable age discrimination. What's worse, since Age-Insight is marketed as an employment service, it could be in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Haven't you noticed that LinkedIn doesn't ask you to input your age? There's a reason for that ...

Affected Parties

In substantial part, the Act "prohibits discrimination for hiring, firing, pay, job assignments ... etc." and applies to persons 40 and above. This is all well and good, with about half of LinkedIn's registered users at 50 or older, a very large portion of the population stands ready to be negatively affected by technology designed specifically to detect ages -- utilizing information from a site that strictly prohibits age information.

The Act does not specifically prohibit the asking of an employee's age, but doing so is legal roulette. Additionally, the employer must justify the question for a lawful purpose. With the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission warning to employers' asking potential employees their ages, technologies like Age-Insight may be a handy -- and illegal -- way to get around the awkwardness of employee directly his or her age.

End of Age-Insight

Ramirez has since pulled the plug on the extension, but nobody is taking bets that the technology won't be coming back in some form or another.

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