Feature

Facebook: Give me your password, please

Job interviewers are increasingly demanding access to applicants’ Facebook accounts.

Before offering you a job, employers don’t generally ask to “snoop around your underwear drawer and check the cleanliness of your toilet,” said Marni Soupcoff in NationalPost.com. So why do they suddenly want your Facebook password? The Associated Press reported last week that a growing number of job interviewers are demanding access to applicants’ entire Facebook accounts, if those accounts have privacy settings that protect them from Google searches. Applicants’ résumés and references are fair game for scrutiny, said Ty Kiisel in Forbes.com. But their private photo albums, their social circles, and any embarrassing comments they may have posted after a night of drinking should not be. If a job interviewer asks you for your Facebook password, “the answer should not just be no. It should be hell no.”

Sorry, but this is a “nonissue,” said Shel Israel, also in Forbes.com. Some alarmists portray this as an Orwellian trend that’s sweeping the nation, but there’s no evidence that prospective employers are routinely demanding access to Facebook passwords. Most of the cases cited in that AP story involved law-enforcement officials trying to ensure, quite sensibly, that they didn’t hire guards with criminal-gang affiliations. Besides, said Thomas Claburn in InformationWeek.com, is there anyone still under the impression that their Facebook page is truly “private?” Whatever you share on Facebook, or any social media, can be easily obtained by a prosecutor or divorce lawyer, or shared with the world by a disloyal friend or other mischief-maker. “The ‘post’ button, like a diamond, is forever.”

That doesn’t justify employers seeking access to your Facebook account, said Jena McGregor in WashingtonPost.com, and it isn’t just law-enforcement officials who are doing it. Facebook last week confirmed a “distressing increase” in the frequency of employers accessing the private accounts of potential hires, and federal and state lawmakers said they’d introduce legislation to stop the practice. What puzzles me is why employers don’t realize that rummaging through applicants’ Facebook pages will “come back to haunt them.” First of all, employers risk discrimination lawsuits if they reject applicants who reveal on Facebook that they are gay, for example, or have some disease. And even if an applicant is accepted, the relationship between boss and employee will forever be sullied by the boss’s intrusive and suspicious prying. Managers take note: “If you don’t trust your employees, they’re not going to trust you either.”

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