Facebook: Employers Asking For Facebook Passwords Alarming, Distressing

    March 23, 2012
    Josh Wolford
    Comments are off for this post.

It’s been a big topic in the news lately, one that particularly troubles privacy activists and your average Facebook user alike: Employers, governmental agencies, and even colleges are beginning to demand employees and students’ Facebook passwords.

The trend has been reported on numerous times recently. One report discussed the practices of certain state government facilities demanding access to a prospective employee’s Facebook account, as well as some colleges that require “social media administrators” that can monitor student-athletes’ accounts. Another told the story of a particular individual who withdrew his application to a company after they demanded his login information.

Today, Facebook has responded to the password-demanding trend, and they land on the side of the user and their privacy.

In short, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan says that Facebook users shouldn’t be forced to share private info just to land a job, and that the recent practice “undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends.”

The most alarming of these practices is the reported incidences of employers asking prospective or actual employees to reveal their passwords. 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. We have worked really hard at Facebook to give you the tools to control who sees your information.

Egan goes on to say that the practice is in fact a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which prohibits the sharing or soliciting of a Facebook password.

Facebook even says that if it comes down to it, they could initiate legal action when it comes to these privacy violations.

Facebook takes your privacy seriously. 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.

One crucial point that Egan stresses, which has been discussed before, it the possible liability that accessing a prospective employee’s Facebook account entails for the employer. What if an employer obtained a user’s password, checked out their information and found something they didn’t like? What if the something they didn’t like involved religion or sexual orientation? This could open the employer up to charges of discrimination.

What do you guys think? Is Facebook right in taking this stand? Is there any circumstance where an employer has the right to demand a password from an employee? Let us know in the comments.

  • Pete

    The employer should just stick to a criminal background check and a 3 month probationary period. After the 3 months, they should be able to determine whether or not they’re a good fit.

    That’s all. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Facebook shouldnt’ be a litmus test for hiring people.

    • MaxTrax

      This has to infringe on some rights and/or be unconstitutional in some way, shape or form for a company to REQUIRE access to a PERSONAL account. If it was a company account, then it is their business, if not its not!

  • http://www.mosaictec.com Sarah

    This is a very interesting story, and I will be curious to see how this plays out. I would be interested to see the employer’s rationale for wanting complete access to a potential employee’s Facebook. A policy like this seems like it would detract a lot of candidates who would feel uncomfortable with this policy. I wonder if a law does pass banning this practice, if it will effect social media background checks employers sometimes do before making hires.

    Mosaic Technology

    • http://www.webpronews.com/author/josh-wolford Josh Wolford

      Plus there’s that issue of how it could harm employers as well..

  • sylvia salamone

    No, non of their business