Christina M. Frey
Volume 20 Issue 12 2012-03-23
It’s no longer news that everything that you post online stays there—and that it could affect your job prospects one day. So you’ve adjusted your privacy settings. You think before you upload photos or Tweet your random thoughts. You’re pretty sure you’d easily survive an employment vetting process.
Enter a new and alarming trend: prospective employers who ask interviewees to provide their Facebook account passwords—or log in themselves so that the interviewer can take a peek at the candidate’s personal life.
As CBS News reports, this outrageous request is becoming more and more common as “some companies and government agencies are going beyond merely glancing at a person’s social networking profiles and instead asking to log in as the user to have a look around.”
First, there’s the audacity of asking an individual to provide her personal password. Facebook itself clearly spells out the basics of account security: “Never give out your username or password. Never share your login credentials (ex: email address and password) for any reason.” [Emphasis theirs.]
And yet employers expect prospective employees to hand it over—job-seekers who, according to CBS News, possibly “cannot afford to say no.”
But suppose you can do the logging in and out yourself, so security’s less of a problem. What if you don’t have anything to hide? What if Facebook is just a mild chronicle of your life with family and friends? What if there are no incriminating wild-weekend photos involving beer, bongs, and random hookups?
It’s still too personal.
Is an employer allowed to ask your marital status? Your religion? Your political views? Your ethnic background? Whether you have kids? Whether you plan to have kids? Depending on where you live, those questions may even be illegal. But the interviewer can get all that information by logging onto your page. She can find out everything from your favourite film genres to the kind of things your friends are discussing to where you went on your last vacation. That’s none of her business.
It’s time for a reality check. If an employer wouldn’t ask for a tour of your house or the contents of your purse, he shouldn’t be requesting a tour of your password-protected personal interactions. The ACLU put it best: “The same standards of privacy that we expect offline in the real world should apply online in our digital lives as well.”