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Passwords for Paychecks

Posted At: April 1, 2012 9:30 AM
by Savannah Bass

Whether you are a high schooler applying for college, a college student looking for jobs or just the average social media user, you’ve heard someone say it: “Don’t put anything on the Internet that you would not want your (insert mother, grandmother, future employer, etc., here) to see.”

Social media users these days are wise to take every approach possible to clean up and block their accounts. However, the latest buzz surrounding privacy on such websites involves employers asking job applicants for passwords to their private social media accounts. Debates on whether an applicant should cave in and give employers their passwords are sweeping the Internet. But the question to be asking oneself is, “Would I relinquish my privacy in order to get a job?”

As if college graduates don’t already have a hard enough time finding jobs in today’s economy as it is, being blindsided and asked for your password is taking job search anxiety to another level. In the event an employer asks for an applicant’s password, the leverage of being the keeper of the job could cause applicants to feel obligated to cave in and let an employer snoop around . . . or else.

Facebook has even gotten involved with a post on its website regarding this newly widespread controversy:

“As a user, you shouldn’t be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job. And as the friend of a user, you shouldn’t have to worry that your private information or communications will be revealed to someone you don’t know and didn’t intend to share with just because that user is looking for a job. That’s why we’ve made it a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password.”

While I personally feel like I have nothing to hide on social media, I would be extremely apprehensive to give out my prized password to a potential employer I barely know. The flip-side of this heated argument is that employers should be allowed to know anything about applicants and as part of their standard background checks, dig up any dirt prior to handing over a job.

Playing devil’s advocate here, it’s only fair to question what happens if an employer comes across sensitive information such as private messages, beyond just embarrassing pictures of college students acting outrageous at parties. What boundaries would be set up for employers to look around one’s account? If you give your password, what qualifies as an invasion of privacy, as if allowing a stranger to take a gander around already hasn’t?

It’s being questioned on hundreds of websites, covered by dozens of news outlets and talked about amongst students, but this whole concept is relatively new. As legislation on the matter is currently being drafted in Illinois, Maryland and Connecticut, this issue will no doubt reach the court system soon enough as the issue of privacy rights on the Internet seems not to be going anywhere anytime soon.

For now though, aspiring employees, ask yourself: “Is it worth it?”


  1. Post comment

    I have to begin by simply saying, wow. I suppose I am behind on this movement, because I must admit this is the first time I have heard of companies asking for social media passwords.

    The way I formed an opinion on this issue was by thinking about the general rules of a job interview. An interviewer should not ask me about my relationship status or if I have children. If the answers to these questions are so private that they can be ignored, then how would someone have the right to ask for a password. Personally, I think this is taking the job interview process a step too far. Not because I have anything to hide, but because I feel that it is just odd.

    My next thought on this issue is privacy—not just privacy of one’s social life but one’s personal business life as well. Often people use the same password for their Twitter and Facebook as they do their banking accounts and private records. If one were to give password information to the wrong person, it could affect more than just their chances at the job.

    The article as a whole was very informative and well written. I look forward to researching this issue further, as well as following it to see what happens.


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