Applying For a Job? Be Prepared to Give Up Your Privacy

Facebook and your privacy is trending once again among news sites and the blogosphere. This time, Facebook is doing something right. They recently amended their Statement of Rights and Responsibility to reflect a current change among employers asking for potential hires and employees access to their personal Facebook accounts.

According to Facebook’s chief privacy officer, this is a no-no, “We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”

Now two state senators are weighing in on the issue. Democrats Chuck Schumer of New York and Connecticut ‘s Richard Blumenthal are asking Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate if employers are violating federal law by making such requests.

In California, one Senator is already taking steps to protect the employee. Leland Yee (D- San Francisco) plans to introduce a bill that will bar employers from asking current employees and potential applications access to their social media networks. “It is completely unacceptable for an employer to invade someone’s personal social media accounts,” Yee said in a statement. “Not only is it entirely unnecessary, it is an invasion of privacy and unrelated to one’s work performance or abilities.”

While most companies are still content to Google your name, this new practice is walking a very fine line. “It’s an invasion of privacy for private employers to insist on looking at people’s private Facebook pages as a condition of employment or consideration in an application process,” ACLU’s staff attorney Catherine Crump said on Tuesday. “You’d be appalled if your employer insisted on opening up your postal mail to see if there was anything of interest inside. It’s equally out of bounds for an employer to go on a fishing expedition through a person’s private social media account.”

The ACLU also says the number of employers who ask applicants for access to their Facebook profiles has risen over the past year. “This practice is so new that until recently, many people weren’t even aware that this was happening,” said Crump.


8 Responses to Applying For a Job? Be Prepared to Give Up Your Privacy

  1. Here's how you handle this situation.

    First, you say "Put that in writing, please." If they refuse, or keep asking, say the following:

    "According to anti-discrimination laws, you are barred from asking me questions such as my age, my marital status, where I was born or what children I may have. Giving you access to my Facebook account lets you know all of these things. So not only will I refuse to give you my password, if you refuse to hire me because of it I will sue you for discriminatory practices."

    Just watch as the heads of HR snap back when they hear those magical words: "discrimination lawsuit."

    • That's good in theory Erin but sadly all they have to use are the magical words "found a better candidate". I'm not saying it's right. As a matter of fact I think it's messed up. However, it's how companies work. You'd be surprised how well HR can dance.

      • But here's the thing: "Found a better candidate" is what they always say, even if they ARE discriminating against you based on race/religion/marital status/whatever. And yet, people bring successful discrimination suits against employers all the time.

        The trick is to find a lawyer who is willing to work either pro bono, or for a cut of the settlement in lieu of hourly rates. And given the high-profile nature of this situation, I imagine there are lawyers aplenty who fit this description.

    • Will that really work? Is there some way for the employer to get around that? I've been hearing about this the past few years and I think it's complete bull. "… it is an invasion of privacy and unrelated to one’s work performance or abilities.” exactly what I thought. People are different in the work place than they are out of it.

  2. FINALLY SOMEONE IS TAKING NOTICE. this is deffinately a step in the right direction toward protecting employee privacy and limiting the totalitarianism that todays corporate america is comeing to. I applaud the senetors and anyone else involved in stopping this practice!

  3. Not only are they invading your privacy, but if employers are making judgements about you based on your profile, that can be labeled as discrimination, which is also illegal in the hiring process.

  4. It's not just the employees privacy which is breached, it's the privacy of all the people the employee is friends with. If an employees friend uploads an image and makes it only visible to their friends list then they expect that it should only be seen by their friends, not their friends and their employers!

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