The state of Maryland recently passed a law preventing employers from asking employees for their Facebook passwords. Whether other states — and countries — follow suit is anyone’s guess.
The issue is disturbing and the privacy line — at least the expectation of privacy — is seriously blurred here. If you’re not a Maryland resident, this could happen to you. What do you do if your employer asks you for your Facebook password? Do you really want to share that information? Does checking Facebook at work on your work-owned mobile device make your account and its contents up for grabs?
Readers of aNewDomain.net weigh in.
+James Barraford, Operations Manager at our partner site, Media Tapper, told us that “too much has been made on the Facebook aspect.
“The practice is certain to morph into Twitter/Google+/what you pin on Pinterest, etc. What’s to stop XYZ company down the road from wanting spouses’ info as a means to check on whether pillow talk is spilling out into the spouses accounts? Emails, browser history… it’s all up for grabs if this practice goes unchecked.”
+Rick Cartwright, a reader from Piqua, OH, agreed. “When you need to eat, feed the family, and such, it is hard to say no. In the current economy, many find themselves in this situation where they need work — and (they) will do what it takes to get the next job because that often means the next meal.
“Being a little proactive about the content you are posting would certainly be helpful. It is like building a good network, you should be prepared before the need, instead of scrambling to clean up your web presence when you need a job.
“That said, carefully documenting the request would seem like a good idea. I would start by trying to steer them to alternate sources, including my LinkedIn profile, references and the like.”
+Venn Stone, founder of LinuxGameCast.com, had a sobering comment. “When people are in need of a job, they will often do things they thought they’d never do. Not an easy situation. When you have mouths to feed you’re going to swallow principles at times. That’s what these companies and some local governments are counting on. That’s why we need legislators to work on ending this practice.”
Reader +Shah Aukburaully, a tech exec at Starcom Mediavest Group in London, says, “I don’t have a Facebook account. All pictures I put online are vetted and available publicly.” That said, “should a company issue a request for my password (on a social media account), I would photocopy the request, or record the request if made in audio. Then I’d … report them to the proper authorities. Hah.”
+Sherilynn Macale, a social media strategist at Identified in San Francisco, called the situation “absolutely preposterous.
“If an employer were to ask me for my Facebook password, the first thing I’d bring up is how, No. 1, Facebook itself advises its users not to give up their passwords and personal information. The second thing I’d do is reassure my employer that I am happy to support my company and team, but anything that compromises my personal life or personal networks is just over the line,” said Macale. The practice “poses a threat to my friends who might be ten times more (concerned about privacy) than I am … (this would give) my employers access to them via my account. I refuse to have that sort of responsibility on my shoulders and, likewise, I shouldn’t have to.”
+Robert Mather, also in the San Francisco Bay area, on the other hand calls this media hype. “I own a background check company that processes thousands of background check requests from employers every day. This is really not an issue as no one is asking,” Mather said, excepting some federal and law enforcement employers.
Other readers react with outrage. Photographer +Doug Griffin, a well-known photographer, weighed in on Google+ when we asked for comments. He asked, “would you take a job with a company that asked you to be unethical?” He continued:
So there’s been some talk about companies asking potential employees to give them their Facebook password so they can root around in your private business and see what kind of a person you are. Why does the Internet change the rights we have as human beings? If we follow this logic, before the Internet, why weren’t employers coming to our houses to inspect our reading material, read our mail, look through our photo albums, and interview everyone we’ve spoken with for the last five years?
Okay, you need a job, I get it. But what are they really asking you to do? Before you even start working for them they ask you to break the terms of service you agreed to with Facebook, as a requirement for getting hired. So you have to wonder what respect they have for other contracts. Is this how they treat contracts with vendors? With customers?
Is this how they will respect the agreements they make with you when you are hired? Why would they? And why should they expect you to be ethical while you are working for them, when they declare from the start that ethics aren’t important?
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