News has been spreading around the web that employers have been asking for Facebook login credentials from applicants as part of their investigative process to find out who they’ll be hiring later. Many people have been shocked at such a discovery.
Facebook is by far the largest network on the Internet, as far as places facilitating direct interaction worldwide. With that huge responsibility, Facebook has changed the very nature of the Internet itself. How we interact with the Internet, and particularly with other people online, has been fundamentally changed forever. We do everything, and want to tell everyone about it. About the only people we don’t want to know about our big party last night, are people who may frown upon it and throw our job applications away because of it.
Employers have every right to turn you down for a job, for any reason they want, aside from reasons directly related to gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and your sexuality. A bit of comfort comes from knowing you hired a trustworthy and dependable person to work with you on the job, and employers frequently perform a wide variety of background checks to ensure you’re the same character outside the office as you are inside.
Some employers, in my opinion, have attempted to go to far. They know that many users on Facebook have their accounts on private, or set up in a way which makes having them on the friends list is a requirement for seeing their profile. Personally, I have pretty much 90% of everything I do totally public to the world, but a lot of people aren’t so free with themselves (I don’t care if you see my profile, in fact I welcome subscribers. I’m pretty interesting after all… have you seen my photos and videos from Asia?)
Employers know that applicants aren’t always going to be totally honest, and thus, have opted to demand Facebook login information (yes, the Username and Password part) as a condition of hiring them. They want to see everything about you, and have total access to your profile (just like it was you, logged in, with your account password).
This raises all sorts of ethical and legal problems. It also means that employers are requiring that people break the terms and conditions of Facebook (jeopardizing their account) to be eligible for a job. It’s a third-party asking you to break the terms of your contractual agreement with another third-party so that they can break ethical boundaries by using that information to break the other company’s agreement by accessing your oh my gosh I’ve gone cross-eyed. In all seriousness though, this is stupid. Employers shouldn’t be doing that, and Facebook isn’t going to stand for it.
Facebook has issued a statement on the subject, highlighting that it believes the practice “undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends,” suggesting that it could result in “unanticipated legal liability” for the parties that request it. They make an excellent point to. I have you as a friend, and therefore, I’m comfortable with you knowing my information. I’ve allowed that. What I haven’t allowed, is for that random perve of a future boss of yours to come snooping around my photo albums with your account, trying to see where we really went last weekend. As a person who respects privacy, that shouldn’t be okay with you, or anybody.
Sharing or the solicitation of a password a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. People shouldn’t ever be putting their friends or loved ones private information at risk for a job, and employers with any ethical bone in their body will not ask that of them. I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth just knowing that it’s happening.
Facebook also makes a very good point in another argument against this type of request. They point out the further risks for employers attempting to get people to give up the goods, stating that if access is requested to an employee’s Facebook account, then the employer may “open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don’t hire that person,” having seen if they are a member of a protected group, which could encompass age, sex, religion etc.
Employers also may not have the proper policies and training for reviewers to handle private information. If they don’t—and actually, even if they do–the employer may assume liability for the protection of the information they have seen or for knowing what responsibilities may arise based on different types of information (e.g. if the information suggests the commission of a crime).
Facebook says that it will take action to “protect the privacy and security” of its users and will engage policymakers “by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges.” Facebook has been a bit slow to act on many things throughout their existence, but in this case, privacy is not one of them. They mean business, and now that they’ve come out publicly with a statement against this type of activity, it’s only a matter of time before employers begin to question their actions.
Facebook says they’ll aid anybody who feels they’ve been wronged by an employer, even if it means filing lawsuits against the companies involved. They want this stuff to stop, and they want it to stop right now. This really should be a relief to everyone who’s been concerned about Facebook’s stance on privacy. This company has single-handedly created an entirely new way to use the Internet, and that way, consumes most of your online life. Try managing over 800 million people’s wishes, questions, demands, and expectations.
But do they really practical action that they can take against these employers? There are plenty of ways employers can get around this, the smartest of which is to present applicants with a laptop, and tell them to login. Then, have the employee give them a tour of their profile, and navigate to areas the employer wants to check. This doesn’t violate the Facebook Terms of Service at all, since the person never had to give up their login information. It’s also the owner of the account using the computer the entire time as well, so no policies broken there either. If they wished to continuously monitor employees, as a requirement, then friend connections with employees would likely suffice (of course, they can also turn privacy settings on for specific friends too. Ever heard of “limited profiles?”).
Employers who are doing this are very wrong, and they need to be stopped. It’s one thing to dig into the privacy of a person who wants to work in your building, engage with your customers, and handle your money. It’s an entirely different thing to ask those people to break terms with other companies and allow them to dig into areas that involve totally different people who have nothing to do with the job. Do the right thing employers. Stop being douche bags.
Of course, what if they’re not doing it to dig into your personal business? What if they’re just doing to see if you’ve got a backbone or not? Try saying “no” and see if you get hired. Come on back and let me know how that goes!
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