Facebook says no to employers logging into applicants profiles

An article on Mashable reports that Facebook has decided that it’s time to take a stand against employers who insist on logging into applicants Facebook accounts. The practice is against Facebooks Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Chief Privacy Officer for Facebook Erin Egan, who released the statement affirming Facebook’s commitment to fighting this practice, had this to say:

“We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges.”

Also in the article, DC area lawyer Bradley Shear said the practice is against the First Amendment and opens employers to discrimination lawsuits.

In my opinion Facebook is making a smart move by taking a stand against this practice. I have noticed several close friends deactivating their Facebook accounts due to privacy concerns, and this only exasperates the problem. If, hypothetically, I was at all willing to give an employer access to my account (I am not), it would be very inactive and basically a pseudo-LinkedIn profile. Facebook needs to encourage activity, and not allow employers to damage its reputation and harm its business model.

Is this practice a threat to Facebooks business? Would Facebook be successful in any legal action taken?

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Henry Brown

Will be interesting to see IF Federal agencies doing background investigations are going to be restricted as well!

Henry Brown

More fallout:

From Politico.com

Sen. Richard Blumenthal has a status update for employers who ask job seekers for access to their private Facebook accounts: He’s writing a bill to outlaw the practice.

The Connecticut Democrat and former state attorney general told POLITICO that those kind of requests from prospective employers amount to an “unreasonable invasion of privacy” for those looking for work. Blumenthal said it ought to be prohibited, just like other banned employment practices such as administering polygraph tests to screen applicants.

“I am very deeply troubled by the practices that seem to be spreading voraciously around the country,” Blumenthal said in an interview. He added that an “employer has a lot of ways to find out information” about potential new employees.

Blumenthal said his bill would be ready “in the very near future.”

Henry Brown

IMO excellent commentary from Stephen Cobb’s blog

Attention CEOs and HR Managers: Facebook login credentials belonging to current or prospective employees are not something that any employer should request, use, or posses. Why? Apart from the violation of security and privacy principles? The risks far outweigh any benefit you imagine you could gain by logging into a social media account that does not belong to you, even if you have persuaded the account owner to give their consent.

The practice of asking current or future employees for their Facebook credentials is not only a serious risk for employers, it is one of the most unpleasant HR stories that I’ve encountered since the time a lab technician with scissors created two bald patches on the back of my head to test me for illegal drugs at the request of a prospective employer.

Terrence (Terry) Hill

It’s about time someone took a stand on this abuse of privacy. Facebook profiles have nothing to do with work qualifications and experience, which are the only valid reasons for selecting employees. We need to respect privacy and freedom of speech and stop making selections based on non-merit principles and personal biases.

Corey McCarren

I have no interest in sharing my status updates on Facebook with anyone besides a select few friends, and many of them are restricted to just ‘close friends’. Many of them are social/political commentary which would never affect my workplace performance, and it would definitely be possible to argue that reading those posts can lead to discrimination.

Mark Sullivan

For the sake of argument, what do folks think about positions that require legal background or security clearance checks? Should we apply different standards to a persons who is applying for a position working with vulnerable children and adults, or dealing with state secrets or law enforcement activity?

Corey McCarren

I think that it is a little different if background checks or security clearances are required, because in that case Facebook can be an extension of the type of information you’re looking for on a person. I know in law enforcement during academy a friend of mine had his take phone taken and texts viewed.

Henry Brown

Suspect it hasn’t changed much since I was involved in the process (Pre-facebook days) but; to probe into email accounts or other internet accounts some justification was required one could not just go wondering around my-space, email etc.

Paul Eric Davis

I can’t even understand why this story has gotten such traction. Twenty years ago, it would have been the equivalent of asking job candidates to let a company wiretap their home phone, or install video cameras in their house to hear and observe the person’s interactions with friends and family. There’s no difference. It would have been wrong and illegal then, it’s wrong and illegal now. Period.

Marsha Toler

NPR has an interesting audio clip regarding the subject of employers asking applicants for their Facebook passwords and using social media sites for screening. You may find this of interest. http://www.npr.org/2012/03/28/149545922/-employers-and-background-checks-how-far-is-too-far This subject is getting a lot of attention now because it is tiptoeing on a fine line of legal infringement on a person’s privacy rights. Though the employer may tell the applicant it is voluntary for them to show the interviewer their social media account, if they refuse, what do you think their chances would be of getting offered a job? Applicants may find themselves forced to forfeit their privacy for a job. In cases of high security positions where there is a tremendous amount of public trust, I can understand. Do you think any liability issues are raised if a person jumps through these hoops and still does not get the job? Could this action on the employer’s part lend to a sort of discrimination if the interviewer sees something that may not really be offensive but perhaps that particular interviewer opposes? This is definitely an interesting subject that provides a basis for lots of questions.

Corey McCarren

Great comments! Yes the concept that it is ‘voluntary’ is off-putting to me. A lot of people don’t have the option of turning down a job, and unless there are two or more viable options there is no real freedom to choose. People definitely need protection from this practice.

Henry Brown

The impact in the real world!

From KHOU Houston Texas

HOUSTON—A teacher’s aide in Michigan has been suspended because she refused to give her Facebook password to her employer. And our KHOU 11 News legal expert says it could easily happen in Texas as well.

Kimberly Hester of Cassopolis, Michigan posted a picture last year of a co-worker’s pants down around her ankles. Only that co-worker’s pants and shoes are visible in the photo.

At the time Hester was a teacher’s aide at Frank Squires Elementary in Cassopolis. Another parent, who is one of Hester’s Facebook friends, notified the school superintendent.

Hester said she was told by Lewis Cass ISD superintendent Robert Colby that he would like her Facebook password so that he could view the photo himself.

“He asked me three times if he could view my Facebook and I repeatedly said I was not OK with that,” said Hester.

In a letter to Hester from the Lewis Cass ISD Special Education Director, he wrote “…in the absence of you voluntarily granting Lewis Cass ISD administration access to you[r] Facebook page, we will assume the worst and act accordingly.”