Friday, March 23, 2012

Facebook Passwords: Do you have to give it to your employer?

Intern Mauri is back and addressing this recent controversy - the practice that has some employers asking for employees/prospective employees Facebook passwords.  Yipes.

The latest Facebook controversy – is it ethical for prospective employers to ask for an applicant’s

News sites have been buzzing during the past few days about a new privacy issue facing social
media users.

The issue came to light after the Associated Press reported on one particular job applicant
named Justin Bassett, a New York-based statistician who was asked for his Facebook password during a
job interview. Apparently the interviewer had done a quick search for Justin’s personal Facebook page;
upon finding it private, she then asked him to provide his information so that she could log in to his page
herself. According to the AP story, this isn’t just a one-time thing: some employers have made it part of
their hiring practice to request an applicant’s passwords to social media sites.

Since its inception, social media has brought up numerous questions about privacy. How much
should be made public? How careful should people be about what they post? Will I be judged by my
employers by what I post on my private page? Many of us already know that social media sites are
valuable tools when trying to determine a job applicant’s skills, experience and especially their ability to
fit into a company’s internal culture. Those of us searching for jobs are well aware that our sites are
going to be browsed for a glimpse into our value as an employee.

But does asking for personal passwords, when a social media page is intentionally made private,
go too far?

One side of the debate says yes, asking for someone else’s password is an invasion of one’s
personal privacy. Some on the side of this argument say they’re happy to “friend,” “connect with,”
or “follow” a prospective employer, but they don’t want to give out their own personal password.
Others say absolutely not: what they post, say or do on social media is private and part of their personal
lives, and should not reflect their worth as a job candidate.

The other side of the debate states that employers need to know they are making the best
choice when selecting a new employee. The more they know about a person, the better informed they
are about how that person will perform. Companies may also want to know if a job applicant will project
the right image for their company. The abundance of information one shares on his or her social media
page, from photos to posts to one’s personal interests and likes, serves as an additional tool for
companies when selecting from a vast pool of job candidates.

A corresponding argument says that no one should have an expectation of privacy on the
Internet: anything anyone posts can be accessed in a variety of ways, and may be accessible forever.

How this latest social media privacy issue plays out remains to be seen, but it makes one thing
clear now more than ever: the Internet has transformed our lives, not just in the way we access
information but also in the way others access information about us.

What do you think? If you’re an employer, do you check the social media sites of prospective
employees and, if so, do you agree or disagree that asking for passwords is an invasion of privacy? If
you’re an employee, do you feel this is an invasion of your privacy? Let us know.


Intern Mauri said...

Interesting news developing. Legislators are proposing bills against the practice.

hammerkicks said...

Hammer Training & Fitness

My name is Rebecca Pizzolatto. I am the co-owner of Hammer Training & Fitness in Allentown, PA. I teach self-defense and Isshin Ryu karate classes at the training facility. As a self-defense instructor, I pride myself on being very safety and security minded. I find this new practice of businesses requiring prospective employees to provide their Facebook passwords to be not only an invasion of privacy, but also a huge security breach.

I am a small business owner and have multiple employees and I still think that the fact that some businesses think it is acceptable to ask for prospective employee's passwords to Facebook is ridiculous. Giving out your password to anyone is a huge security risk, especially when identity theft is so prominent in our society. If a prospective employee uses the same password or a similar password on other online sites, such as banking sites, this practice becomes an even bigger security issue. Obviously, a prospective employee could change their Facebook password before giving the password to the business, but there is no guarantee that everyone is going to do that and there is no guarantee that the prospective employee has been given ample time to do so. And while the business itself may have honorable intentions for requesting this information, the password is being given to one or more people that may not always have the business's best interests at heart.

If a complete stranger walked up to you on the street and asked for your Facebook password, would you give it to them? You'd probably laugh at them and walk away. What if they offered you $20 for your password? Or $100,000 for your password? Is the $100,000 worth your identity possibly being stolen?

Look at this from another angle. Imagine an applicant is offered a position with a company. Before the applicant will accept the offer, they ask for the business's Facebook password. A representative of the company would probably laugh the applicant right out of the building and find someone else for the job. Well, the applicant should do the same in the reverse situation.

If everyone stands together on this, businesses who require Facebook passwords will not be able to find any employees who will work for them and it will force the businesses to change their policies regarding Facebook passwords.

If we let businesses get away with requesting Facebook passwords, what is the next step? A request for your banking password? A request for your email password? A search of your car and house? A search of your cell phone calls, texts, and emails? Perhaps the requirement to have a tracking device implanted under your skin so the company can monitor your every move? Sounds outrageous, but this is where we are heading if we do not stop it now. Protect yourself, take a stand, and refuse to give anyone your password.

Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce said...

Rebecca, first off, thanks for such an in-depth response!

I agree completely. I cannot believe that such a practice is legal, frankly. It seems like such a blatant invasion of privacy. At job interviews, for example, a prospective employer has absolutely zero right to ask about items in your personal life - it makes perfect sense that your social media should fall under the same exemptions.