Several news reports have come out stating that prospective employers are asking for Facebook passwords during job interviews surprising job seekers and putting them on the spot at a critical time in their lives.
As these job interviewees are sitting in an already stressful job interview, to have potential employers put them on the spot asking for their private information to access their Facebook accounts seems cruel and maybe even illegal.
How much private information should future employers be allowed to ask for?
According to Facebook, what these employers are doing goes against their terms and could result in legal action.
“In recent months, we’ve seen a distressing increase in reports of employers or others seeking to gain inappropriate access to people’s Facebook profiles or private information. This practice undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends. It also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability. The most alarming of these practices is the reported incidents of employers asking prospective or actual employees to reveal their passwords . “ We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges.” [Facebook, 3/23/12]
Since many who are seeking jobs have been out of work for a time, this practice seems to be almost an intimidation tactic used on the vulnerable.
While I believe that many social networking users should be more cautious when posting photos and comments, I don’t think that this new and rather personal information outlet should be used to decide whether or not someone should be hired for a job.
Shouldn’t their resume speak for itself?
I do understand that many employers, especially those who work with children or government agencies, need to do a little more digging about new hires, but asking for a friend request or a password goes too far.
Rep. Perlmutter (D-CO) agreed when he said last month, “People have an expectation of privacy when using social media like Facebook and Twitter. They have an expectation that their right to free speech and religion will be respected when they use social media outlets. No American should have to provide their confidential personal passwords as a condition of employment. Both users of social media and those who correspond share the expectation of privacy in their personal communications. Employers essentially can act as imposters and assume the identity of an employee and continually access, monitor and even manipulate an employee’s personal social activities and opinions. That’s simply a step too far.”
The other thing to consider is that many social networking users don’t consistently update their information. I know I don’t. Employers expecting that personal information is constantly updated just may not be accurate.
Many college students post pictures of wild parties or nights out with fraternity brothers on their Facebook pages while in school but months or even years later, they probably don’t take those photos down. I’m sure that most people forget about photos or remarks they have downloaded to their Facebook accounts.
While I don’t see Facebook actually going after these companies legally, companies should follow the law when it comes to asking for passwords to personal Facebook and Twitter pages.
According to Boston.com, “giving out Facebook login information violates the social network’s terms of service. But those terms have no real legal weight, and experts say the legality of asking for such information remains murky.”
They continue, ‘The Department of Justice regards it as a federal crime to enter a social networking site in violation of the terms of service, but during recent congressional testimony, the agency said such violations would not be prosecuted. But Lori Andrews, law professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law specializing in Internet privacy, is concerned about the pressure placed on applicants, even if they voluntarily provide access to social sites.”
Andrews even goes as far as calling it coercion.
“Volunteering is coercion if you need a job,’’ Andrews said in the Boston.com article.
Facebook and Twitter users must be smart when it comes to posting photos or updating their status on their walls. Beware of bad mouthing former employers or uploading photos of late parties or any PG-13 or above rated activities, especially if you are out looking for a job!