Terry Corbell, The Biz Coach
By Terry Corbell
Business Consultant

Facebook Privacy: Advice for Job Seekers and Employers



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 both job applicants and employers. 

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.

Unfortunately, many people looking for work open the door for employers to spy on their Facebook pages. An HR management study shows 30 percent of job seekers use social media to get more information about open positions or employers; of these, more than 70 percent use Facebook, 43 percent each use Google+ or LinkedIn.

In addition, 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).

For employers:

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, here are related tips:

Job seekers:

Stand Out: Get a Job Interview with a Great Resume — More and more job seekers complain they don’t get acknowledgment when they apply for positions with prospective employers. It’s disappointing, especially if you’ve done your best to stand out in a crowd when jobs are scarce. Worse for you, a significant number of employers use an online tracking system to accept applications and screen out applicants.

Your Career Success is Determined by your Spouse’s Personality — Study — Your spouse’s attitude has an indirect, powerful impact on whether you succeed in your career. That’s the conclusion from an important study by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis. “Our study shows that it is not only your own personality that influences the experiences that lead to greater occupational success, but that your spouse’s personality matters too,” said Joshua Jackson, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences and lead author of the study.

Top 11 Tips for a Great Elevator Pitch — In job interviews, you need to prepare for any opportunities. Don’t be caught off guard. Create an introduction describing the value you provide, be concise, customize it for your target audience, and really know it – so you can deliver a flawless elevator pitch.

Employers:

HR Management: Think Like a Sales Pro to Recruit the Best Talent — One-size-fits-all approach to recruiting employees is not a strategy. You and your peers in human resources might be enamored with technology, but job candidates want more focus on the personal touch. That necessitates thinking like a sales professional.

Hiring Impact An Impact Person Starts with Screening Resumes — 5 Tips — If you want to hire an impact person, your hiring process is really important. The place to start is using best practices in screening resumes. The wrong hires result in costly turnover — a waste of money and time. Before you start interviewing, the place to start is your screening of resumes. Don’t take shortcuts.

6 Tips to Turn Your HR Department into a Profit Center — At least 50 percent of a company’s profits are contingent on employee problems. If you have challenges in one department, odds are you have HR issues in other departments. In fact, human capital is the No. 1 reason why CEOs lose sleep. Many businesses often need an objective source of information and expertise from critical thinkers. It’s true you can turn your human resources department into a profit center.

“The employer generally gets the employees he deserves.”

-J. Paul Getty

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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.

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Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.