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March 23, 2012 By

Should Employers Ask Applicants for their Facebook Passwords?

Should Employers Ask Applicants for their Facebook Passwords?

In a month that has seen Twitter celebrate its 6th birthday, and the current Mayor of London, Boris Johnson receive some pretty bad press for changing his Twitter username from @mayoroflondon to the much more personal @borisjohnson in the run up to the London Mayoral Elections in May, issues of  identity and privacy have once more risen to the surface of the boiling social cauldron.

But one of the most startling things I've read about social media recently, has to be this Forbes article, which reveals that job applicants in the US have been asked by potential employers for their Facebook log in details during the interview process. While it has become commonplace for employers to search for the social media profiles of job applicants online (45% of businesses in the US admit to doing this), in order to find out more information on their work history, life, or even any bad habits, such punctuality issues, companies asking for log in details has taken this behaviour into new and dangerous territory. 

While some might argue that by having a profile on a social networking site, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Pinterest, a user has put their information on a public forum, and anyone who stumbles across it is therefore entitled to read its contents. However, while this is quite a valid point, there are lots of people, like myself, who prefer their personal social networks to be private to anyone except friends, and have made use of the privacy settings available. While this is not the case for everybody, I would prefer that my Facebook profile doesn't appear in search engines when anyone types my name in. Because, like many other people, I see my Facebook page as my own Facebook page and I would no sooner give my log in details to anyone, let alone a potential employer, than I would give my debit card and PIN number to someone on the street - even if they asked me really nicely. 

This may sound like a very extreme statement, but would you give your email login details to anyone? Probably not. These details are yours and yours alone, and nobody should be forced to  share them with anyone under any circumstances, unless you're happy to share them. However, what's really worrying about this new trend is according to reports, more and more applicants have actually parted with their passwords because they really need to get the job, and they're frightened that refusing to hand over these details will stop them from getting a job that they really need. 

However, it's not just job applicants that have been asked to share their Facebook pages with potential employers, as some student athletes in the US are required to 'friend' their coach and allow them the same access to their Facebook profile as they would to their other friends. While this isn't as serious, it seems a little totalitarian to have a clause that states a student must as not long after this story broke, the ACLU or the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a complaint with the Maryland State Department of Corrections after applicants were asked to hand over their log in details to their Facebook page.  

Facebook log in details, or the log in details for any social network email account or other website belong to the user, and it's up to the user if they want to disclose them to someone else. Employers, companies and other institutions need to understand this, and as Facebook itself has made very clear, this demand is in violation of US Federal law, so any employer requesting these details has therefore committed a crime

So if you're ever asked for your Facebook log in details during an interview, politely refuse, no ob is worth such a gross invasion of your privacy. And if you've already experienced this, whether you're in the US or elsewhere, please get in touch and let me know what happened.

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