Some Employers Requiring Employees to Share Personal Facebook Passwords

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Employers are finding ways around applicants locking their Facebook profiles
Source: Adam Rosenberg, “5 Essential Facebook Privacy Tips,” May 18, 2010

With more applicants setting their Facebook profiles to “private,” some employers are asking job seekers for their passwords or to login to social networking sites during interviews.

Requiring employees to grant access to Facebook profiles is reportedly more common among public agencies, especially law enforcement and emergency services. The Sherriff’s department in Spotsylvania County, VA, asks law enforcement and dispatcher applicants to add background investigators as Facebook friends. “In the past, we’ve talked to friends and neighbors, but a lot of times we found that applicants interact more through social media sites than they do with real friends,” said Capt. Mike Harvey. “Their virtual friends will know more about them than a person living 30 yards away from them.” According to a Feb. 2010 Sophos report, 72% of companies believe that employees’ use of social networking sites could endanger their company’s security.

Facebook announced on Mar. 23, 2012 that it will work with policymakers and use legal action to prevent employers from accessing private information on the social network. Facebook Chief Privacy Officer for Policy Erin Egan said, “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.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland sent a letter to Maryland’s Public Safety Secretary Gary Maynard on behalf of an employee who was asked to turn over his Facebook login. “It’s an invasion of privacy for private employers to insist on looking at people’s private Facebook pages as a condition of employment or consideration in an application process,” said ACLU attorney Catherine Crump. “People are entitled to their private lives. You’d be appalled if your employer insisted on opening up your postal mail to see if there was anything of interest inside. It’s equally out of bounds for an employer to go on a fishing expedition through a person’s private social media account.”

US Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is drafting legislation to prevent employers asking current and prospective employees for their social media passwords. ZDnet’s Emil Orotalinski suggests, “Until there’s legislation that can protect you, I would advise telling your employer or school that you don’t have a Facebook account and that they can go shove it.”


Sources:

Joe Coscraelli, “Employers Want to Borrow Your Facebook Password,” www.nymag.com, Mar. 20, 2012

Emil Protalinski, “Senator Vows to Stop Employers Asking for Your Facebook Password,” www.zdnet.com, Mar. 23, 2012

Manuel Valdesand Shannon McFarland, “Job Seekers Getting Asked for Facebook Passwords,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 9, 2012