Some Employers Now Asking for Facebook Passwords (Plus, All the Backlash)

By: iCopywriter Senior Editor, Heather Price-Wright

Would you give a potential employer keys to your house or car, so that they could do some independent snooping before deciding whether or not to hire you?

Even if the career in question were a dream come true in this rocky job market, you’d probably think twice about working for a company that would want to breach your privacy that way. But that’s the comparison being made by at least one expert to some companies’ newest way of vetting job candidates: asking for Facebook passwords.

According to an Associated Press report from last week, some companies, especially public and government agencies, are asking job candidates to hand over their Facebook profile information, including passwords, in order to be considered for positions.

Agencies have reported that anything from photos of illegal activity to potential gang and/or crime affiliations to “derogatory” or offensive postings, if posted to applicants’ social networking sites, could disqualify them for open positions.

Other companies fall short of asking for passwords, but do require that potential employees log onto social networking sites with job interviewers watching or “friend” human resources personnel so material placed behind privacy walls can be explored. Some firms also require new employees to sign non-disparagement agreements stating they won’t bad-mouth their employers online, even on personal social networking profiles.

Of course, the AP story has generated plenty of backlash against the companies in question, including:

  • A strongly worded statement from the mighty Facebook itself, condemning the practice and noting that the company intends to “(engage) with policy makers…to help better safeguard the privacy of our users.” Note: Earlier in the week, Facebook vaguely threatened legal action against the companies in question, but seems to have withdrawn that threat.
  • A request from two U.S. Senators that Attorney General Eric Holder look into whether the requests for passwords and similar personal information break any federal laws.
  • Numerous lawyers and other experts stating that the policy is illegal, a massive breach of privacy and probably against the First Amendment.
  • Bills set to be introduced in several states, including California and Connecticut, outlawing the practice of employers asking for private information about potential employees’ social networking activities, including profile details and passwords.

Suffice it to say that the companies engaging in this practice are meeting with a storm of criticism from all directions.

What do you think? Have you ever been asked to provide information about social networks in a job interview? What did you do? Do employers have the right to ask for this kind of information?

Have you checked out lately?