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Password Please

At the beginning of the month, I wrote a blog about how a study showed that Facebook may just be a reliable assessment tool for recruiters. It sparked a conversation about whether employers should be using Facebook to screen applicants. Flash forward a couple of weeks, and stories about job seekers being asked for Facebook passwords during interviews are all over the internet and television.

I’m sure you’ve heard many of these individual accounts if you have been keeping up with the topic. There have been so many more stories (and debate) that have been publicized the past two weeks.

So many varied discussions about Facebook and employers – what (or is) there a difference if you are an applicant versus an employee providing your password, how a city ask for passwords for email addresses/social networking websites, or private sector companies such as Sears utilizing an app where job applicants to log into the Sears job site through Facebook by allowing a third-party application to draw information from their profile. What happens next? I’ve heard that some employers require their workers to sign non-disparagement agreements which ban them from talking negatively about their employer on social media sites.

Flash forward a couple of weeks, and as of last Friday, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer for Policy releases a statement saying that “in recent months, we’ve seen a distressing increase in reports of employers or others seeking to gain. Then just today I read that two Senators (Richard Blumenthal and Charles Schumer) have asked the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate “a new disturbing trend” of prospective employers demanding job applicants to provide user names and passwords for their social network accounts. Senator Blumental has also said he is going to be drafting legislation banning employers from requesting access to Facebook accounts as a term of employment.

I know that since 2006, the McLean County Sheriff’s office has been asking applicants to sign into their social media sites so that they may be screened. The department says applicants have a right to refuse, and no one has ever done so. My thought? Hello! If you need to pay your mortgage, utilities, the car payment, and put food on the table for your family – perhaps you agree to this because you CAN’T afford to stand up for your belief.

Employers say that applicants are volunteering this information. What are your thoughts? Is volunteering coercion if you need a job?

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@ Lindsey – Lots of hot topics in screening applicants, and they never seem to get resolved, just discussed and rediscussed!

When it comes to screening potential employees, there’s plenty of grey area, whether it’s utilizing social media, banning the box (if you’re not familiar with this one, it is the campaign calling for the elimination of the questions about past convictions on initial employment applications), or as you mentioned, mandatory drug testing.

Katt Hancher

Part of the problem with facebook in particular is that the public profile contains information which is illegal for prospective employers to ask during the interview process. Beyond that point in the employment process, I’m still reading everyone’s perspective and waiting to see how it all falls out.

Janina Rey Echols Harrison

I know I personally do not have anything to hide on my social sites, however, that is my private life and I find it unacceptable to be asked to provide access to that part of my life. ID and passwords is definitely wrong. I friended one person that I work with and that person used information from my site to harrass my daughter, so no work people get access, certainly not anyone that I do not even know.

There are plenty of options available for screening people, ink blotches, hand writing analysis.

When someone NEEDS a job, it IS coercion to ask for access. And, as pointed out earlier, this provides access to information employers are not able to ask in interviews. So why should they be allowed this access.


@ Kat – Interesting comment “Part of the problem with facebook in particular is that the public profile contains information which is illegal for prospective employers to ask during the interview process”. If Facebook is posting/providing this public profile information (which is illegal for prospective employers to ask), why isn’t it illegal for Facebook to ask it’s users to provide it? Or, why is it legal for them to display this information for all to see? An employer surely wouldn’t get away with publishing such information for the public, or all of it’s employees. Very interesting!

Jeffrey Jones

I can understand both sides of the issue. There is information on the social media web site that the employer can not ask, or if they do, it is illegal. The employeer does not want to hire someone who is going to turn out to embarass the company, expecially when they find the drunk pictures from that spring break in Cancun. So how do you prevent an employer from asking for information that is on your social media web site? DO NOT HAVE ONE. Of course it might not be a good idea if you are applying for the Director of Social Media position. If you must use it, please note it is FACEBOOK. SO don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want anyone to know.


@Jeffrey. You’ve pretty much summed up my thoughts about it all!

Interesting side-note. A friend of mine has a friend (native of Mexico) who when they came across the boarder was asked if they have a Facebook account. Seems our Fed. government agents ask non-U.S. citizens for such information as well…another example of how the line is “blurred” or non-existent as to what’s right-or-wrong when it comes to Facebook.