Facebook, Job Searches, Privacy, Social Media, Social Networking Websites

Employers Claim Feudal Rights Over Facebook Pages

Do you really want this guy as your boss?

If there is one golden rule in the technological age, it would likely be that you don’t share your electronic passwords with anyone. Tech companies routinely tell their customers that they will never ask for their users’ security information. Common knowledge says you shouldn’t share passwords with friends, lovers, or even family members. Because when you share that information, you might end up getting arrested for selling contraband to Iran, and your iPhone might wind up at the bottom of a canyon.

So what do you do when a prospective employer wants to login to Facebook — as you — during a job interview? Weep and gnash your teeth? Yeah, that’s what I thought…

The Associated Press has the story of the unsettling uptick in job interviewers who want VIP access to your Facebook account (gavel bang: Legal Blog Watch):

When Justin Bassett interviewed for a new job, he expected the usual questions about experience and references. So he was astonished when the interviewer asked for something else: his Facebook username and password.

Mr. Bassett, a New York City statistician, had just finished answering a few character questions when the interviewer turned to her computer to search for his Facebook page. But she couldn’t see his private profile. She turned back and asked him to hand over his login information.…

In their efforts to vet applicants, 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.

I don’t want to be your friend, I just want to be your Facebook stalker.”

I mean, why don’t they just ask for the password to your personal email account while they’re at it?

Professor Orin Kerr, who writes for the Volokh Conspiracy, summons the requisite rage here:

“It’s akin to requiring someone’s house keys,” said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor who calls it “an egregious privacy violation.”

It is particularly upsetting that at least one person Interviewed in the AP story — Chief Deputy Rusty Thomas, of the McLean County Sheriff’s Department in Illinois — justifies his policy by saying no one has complained or said they didn’t want to give up the information.

You ignoramus. That’s because everyone needs work, is broke, and doesn’t want to torpedo their chances at gainful employment. Even at his Podunk law enforcement agency. It would be incredibly difficult to say no to a question like that at a job interview. It would make most people feel guilty of trying to hide something, even if they were not.

It strikes me as analogous to the idea that many people (myself included) are deeply ideologically opposed to the new naked technologically updated x-ray machines in airports. But how many people actually say, “I want to be patted down instead”? Almost no one, because there is an implicit fear that if you sidestep procedure, you might end up alone in a room with a burly TSA agent who wants to get cozy with your testicles.

Or, in this case, there is a fear of winding up without a job.

Moreover, this doesn’t exactly make me confident that law enforcement agencies are in any way concerned with respecting citizens’ privacy rights generally, when they have no regard for their own prospective employees’ personal lives.

And not that anyone pays attention to the terms of service, but I think it might be a technical violation to login as someone other than yourself. So it is not only creepy and weird, but it might also not be allowed. The AP reports that at least two states — Illinois and Maryland — have proposed legislation prohibiting the practice.

UPDATE 2:55 PM: Several readers have pointed out that this is a pretty clear violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service (section 4, paragraphs 8 and 9):

8. You will not share your password, (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.
9. You will not transfer your account (including any page or application you administer) to anyone without first getting our written permission.

I’m not familiar with specific pre-existing statutes or case law that might deal with this. Do any of our readers know the regulations regarding logging in as someone else to sites like Facebook? Or even simply requesting/coercing someone into giving you their password? If so, please share in comments, or email us with the subject “Facebook password sharing.”

Is it OK for a job interviewer to ask for your Facebook login? [Associated Press]

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