Job seekers getting asked for Facebook passwords

In another twist on employers checking out candidates on social networking sites there are reports of employers asking for the Facebook passwords of job applicants and, in some cases, for current employees.   Checking social media sites this way is called “shoulder surfing” because the employer is seeing everything you do, rather than just the public information you want them to see.

If this happens to you, all the work you may have done on adjusting your privacy settings to limit what some of your friends, family and others can see is basically useless.  Once you have given out your login information, the company will have full access to your account.

Should employers be asking job applicants for Facebook passwords? In my opinion, they shouldn’t.  There should be a line between personal and private and this would seem to violate it.  In addition, giving out passwords to any of your online accounts isn’t a good idea, because whomever you give it to doesn’t just have the ability to view your account.   It gives them full access.

If your login information gets into the wrong hands they can use your account as if they were you and login into third party sites that use Facebook logins for access, as well as to Facebook.  If you’re using professional networking Facebook apps they will see who you are communicating with.  The same holds true for LinkedIn and other sites – anyone who has your password can see your account in its entirely.

There are no laws specifically protecting the social networking privacy of job seekers and employees. However, employers need to be careful because there are discrimination issues if the company selectively asks for information from some candidates, but not from all.  That said, employers are on firmer ground if you voluntarily give them your password than if they check on you via other methods.

From both the job seeker and the employer perspective, because of those discrimination issues,  it’s important for companies to have guidelines in place when conducting social networking research on job applicants.  If the company has a social media policy  there is a standard protocol that applies to all candidates and employees and there are no potential discrimination issues.

Another thing to keep in mind, for employees, is that if you are using company computers to access  your personal social media pages you may be inadvertently providing access to the sites you visit online if you automatically login and depending on company social media policy,  potentially violating that policy by spending time using company computer to access Facebook or elsewhere online.  Here’s more information on employer social media policies.

What can you do if an employer asks for your login information? It’s a tough decision, because not complying could cost you a job offer.  Also consider whether would you want to work for a company that didn’t respect your privacy.  And would you want to have to worry about everything you post on Facebook during your tenure with that company?

On the other hand, there isn’t much that is really private online and there is a good chance that just about everything you post can be found  – one way or another.  Plus, social networking, when done right, can help your job search rather than hinder it.

That’s why it’s always important to be careful about what you post online and don’t forget the “grandma rule” – don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see, especially when you’re job hunting.


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