The practice by some companies to require job seekers to reveal their Facebook passwords so they can spy on the applicants’ private information prompts a couple of Biz Coach reactions: For job applicants and companies.
For job seekers:
Any company that would require disclosure of your Facebook password is an undesirable employer. At the very least, it’s really tacky for an interviewer to request such information. It also leads to divulging of your family’s and friends’ private information. Who needs a voyeur or an identity thief for a boss?
Facebook’s chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, issued a warning to such companies: “We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers, or where appropriate, by initiating legal action…”
This issue serves as a catalyst to warn job seekers to be smart about what they insert in their social media. No employer wants to be embarrassed.
To be fair, you shouldn’t be accessing social media at work unless authorized — usually, it’s OK only if you’re promoting your employer’s products and services (here’s why).
Admittedly, recruiters and bosses have been looking at applicants’ social media for some time now. Reading openly published comments are different than private comments, which are tantamount to reading someone’s personal diary or bank statement.
But for an employer to ask for passwords is a violation of federal law: The Stored Communication Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It’s important to avoid EEOC discrimination suits and here’s more why companies are falling into the management lawsuit trap.
“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,” wrote Ms. Egan. “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.”
Sharing or asking for a Facebook password violates Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.
“If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password, let anyone access your account, or do anything that might jeopardize the security of your account or violate the privacy of your friends,” she wrote. We have worked really hard at Facebook to give you the tools to control who sees your information.”
She explains the legal land mines very well.
“For example, if an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don’t hire that person,” wrote Ms. Egan.
And in this litigious environment, it wouldn’t take long for a single applicant or a group of applicants to sue, not to mention getting the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union.
You’re much safer just looking at the person’s LinkedIn account, and it’s more important for you to have a heart as an employer.
Finally, employers should be careful about their social media policies. The federal government ruled against Costco on its social media policy.
From the Coach’s Corner, if you’re a job seeker, look for better employers — here are some tips:
- Stand Out: Get a Job Interview with a Great Resume
- Top 11 Tips for a Great Elevator Pitch
- Nervous About Your New Boss? Here’s How to Deal with It
“The employer generally gets the employees he deserves.”
-J. Paul Getty
Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.