Facebook and general social networking is playing an increasingly important role in our professional lives. While many companies have been known to search for the Facebook profiles of job applicants, other companies are now flat out asking for Facebook login passwords.
According to the Toronto Star, an Ontario resident had been asked to provide his Facebook password after making it through the initial interview stages and becoming a finalist for a police services position. Although the applicant offered to login to his Facebook account and leave the room while the interviewer could take a look around inside his account, he said he felt shocked that they would ask for such a personal piece of information, and that he felt pressured into giving them his password.
(Note: in a non-scientific poll conducted by the Star, 80% of readers said they would refuse to give an interviewer their Facebook login information because it is a violation.)
The practice of asking for Facebook passwords as part of a job interview is a little more common in the U.S., but more Canadians are noticing the trend as well.
Job searchers have learned to appreciate the fact that potential employers want to find out more about candidates by glancing over their Facebook profile, Twitter page, or LinkedIn account, especially as social networking usage continues to soar in popularity. With that in mind, there’s a huge difference between looking at an individual’s account as an outsider and logging right in to that individual’s account.
Not surprisingly, some applicants aren’t willing to give up such a personal piece of information, not matter how good the job opportunity may be. When a New York City man was asked to hand over his Facebook password, he refused and ended up withdrawing his application from being so turned off that a company would require something so personal from him.
A variety of legal questions are being raised about this new employer trend. There are currently no Ontario laws involving employer rights in accessing personal social networking accounts from job applicants, but a couple of American states are looking into law enforcement that will prohibit employers from asking for it.
While some people like the NYC candidate may refuse to give it up, there will always be situations—such as the one involving the Ontario police service applicant—where others may feel entirely obligated to hand their login information over to the interviewer if they really can’t afford to say no. Active social networkers might consider it to be a clear act of privacy violation, and feeling pressured to give in to it is an obvious issue.
It’s a fuzzy topic right now, and even though it would go against Facebook’s terms of service to give out personal login information, it’s not enough to make any real legal impact on its own. A few reputable individuals have come out to discuss the issue and express their opinions, including George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr who told the Associated Press: “It’s akin to requiring someone’s house keys.”
Public agencies and law enforcement offices are more likely to ask for personal social networking information than any other hopeful employers. So if you’re looking for a job in that area, take this article as a heads up warning and prepare yourself to potentially be asked for your Facebook password.