Posted At: April 10, 2013 2:48 P.M.
by Jessica Ruffin
You presented your prospective employer with a killer résumé, nailed your elevator speech and answered the interview in a manner that would impress Donald Trump. You’re certain the job is yours and are thrilled – until he leans in and says, “Now I’ll need the passwords to your personal Facebook and Twitter accounts.”
The popularity of social media has skyrocketed over the past several years, with one billion monthly users as of last fall. This popularity has also stimulated a trend of American employers asking potential job candidates for passwords to their personal social media sites.
And Americans are not happy.
At the beginning of the year, California and Illinois passed a law that made it illegal for an employer to ask an employee or prospective employee for his social media usernames and passwords. The two states joined Michigan, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware, all of which already had laws in place that prohibit the practice.
Facebook agrees. Erin Egan, who serves as the chief privacy officer for Facebook, issued the following statement last year when this issue was brought to the surface for the first time:
“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.”
I completely understand that employers want to “check out” prospective candidates for a job before they hire them. On a slow day at one of my internships, I was given the sneaky task of “stalking” prospective interns via social media and taking notes on any red flags. It’s important to know what kind of person you may be welcoming into your company.
However, isn’t that the purpose of a reference? If you call up a candidate’s former employer and she gives your prospective employee a glorious recommendation, I don’t see why you would need to have access to the job candidate’s personal account, as well. References offer insight into a person’s work ethic — instead of providing insight into what they do on the weekends – which is much more relevant.
Many might argue that if prospective employees have nothing to hide, then they would have no problem with handing over their login information. While this may be true, I don’t think that point is the core of the real issue here: The practice is a complete invasion of privacy. I don’t have anything questionable on any of my social media accounts, but I wouldn’t dream of giving my employer an all-access pass to them.
And I most certainly don’t think refusing to hand over your password should be a deciding factor on whether or not you are given a position. It’s perfectly acceptable for an employer to be “friends” with his employees on Facebook or follow them on Twitter – which is why it’s also imperative that job seekers keep their social media pages squeaky-clean in case future employers were to stumble across their pages. But when your boss begins to have access to your personal message inbox or direct messages, that’s where the line is drawn.
What do you think about employers asking prospective employees for their social media passwords? Would you hand over your account information if asked by a potential employer?