Thinking Tech

Want to get hired? Please provide your Facebook password

Want to get hired? Please provide your Facebook password

Posting in Technology

As part of the screening process, some employers have requested that applicants hand over access to their social media accounts.

It's obviously difficult to find good work in this economy, but would you ever want a job so bad that you'd hand over the password to your Facebook account? Apparently, some employers don't feel it's too much to ask for.

Recently a woman who was applying to work as a phone operator at a local police department in North Carolina came across a section of the application where one of the questions was whether she belonged to any social networking sites. And as if that wasn't invasive enough, the form further requested that the applicant provide a username and password.

Her husband, who likely became alarmed, posted a snapshot of application on the content sharing site Reddit, which generated thousands of comments within a matter of hours.

Interestingly enough, this isn't as much of a random isolated incident as many people would think. There have been reports of similar cases in Norman, Oklahoma and of a Maryland resident named Robert Collins who was asked to provide his Facebook account information during an interview at a local correctional facility, according to the Human Resources Journal.

Essentially, these employers are seeking the kind of unprecedented access that amounts to divulging some of the most intimate details of an applicant's life, not to mention putting the person at risk for identity theft. Many would obviously question how ethical or even legal is it to request access to private messages, profile information and personal photos.

But with something that can easily be seen as a blatant violation of privacy, authorities have found there to be real justification. “You’re investing these individuals that you hire with the legal authority to arrest people and to, in a worst case scenario, take someone’s life,” an Oklahoma police officer told Human Resources Journal.

Not too long after Collin's interview the American Civil Liberties Union got involved. Here is a snippet of what was written in a letter sent to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services on Collins’ behalf:

“Courts that have been required to address the issue have ruled that wall postings and email on Facebook and other social media sites are protected communications under the SCA [Stored Communications Act], making efforts to access them without proper authorization illegal… Here, there can be little question but that force ‘authorization,’ such as that demanded of Mr. Collins, is not proper authorization under the SCA, given the disparate bargaining power of the employer and the employee or applicant.” The SCA is part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, which protects such forms of communication.

The correction facility has since backed off from enforcing such requests, but hasn't banned the practice. In a reply to the ACLU, Public Safety Secretary Gary Maynard only said that the agency would continue to look into the matter. While there is a likelihood that the issue will eventually get resolved through the courts, job-hunters need to think twice about whether any job is worth it.

Photo: SportzTawk (Reddit)

(via Human Resources Journal)

Related:

Share this

Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure