Asking for your Facebook password is too close for comfort

Image courtesy of abovethecrowd.com

This is it. You finally have the interview. It’s been years of education and waiting to step into the workforce. You have reviewed your résumé until your trash can is overflowing with rough drafts. Hours have been spent in front of the mirror acting out your flattering facial expressions, graceful entrance and memorized interview skills. That outfit of slacks and a blazer you keep in the back of your closet finally sees light for the first time. You take a deep breath, enter the interview room and give your best performance. Everything is perfect, they laugh at your overly rehearsed jokes, they smile at your charisma, and most importantly you can tell they want you as their employee.

And then they ask for your Facebook password.

Wait a minute, that’s a little weird. There is a reason you have a password on your account; it’s to keep your information in your control and to keep your personal life, well, personal. Despite the well-known stereotype that Facebook is the best stalking tool on the Internet, it doesn’t provide an invitation for employers to go deeper than what is readily apparent and view what you want to keep away from the public.

But this is exactly what some businesses have been doing. A March 2012 report by ABC World News in March 2012 unnervingly reveals “some [employers] have demanded applicants hand over their passwords so they can view individual’s restricted profiles.” Demanded? That’s a strong word. Why did these firms feel so confident in demanding such indisputably personal information?

Because they had the upper hand. They knew that during the current economic recession, countless individuals were seeking any job they could get their hands on. There are more job applicants than open positions, and employers know they have the luxury of replacing them whenever they want during this current economic downturn.

This treatment from firms is wrong. They are getting access to the same information your own Facebook friends have, except through force instead of receiving permission to view your information. Sure, by all means employers should be able to look applicants up on Facebook. What’s public on the Internet is up for grabs. The same goes for permanent records or the opinions from past employers, but there is no reason to go deeper than that. What an employee decides to keep private is his or her business.

What is different here is the goal. They are requesting more than just a quick peek at your social networking profile—they’re opening an investigation into your personal life. Much of people’s information on Facebook can reveal their uninhibited side, which is enough to cause us a little anxiety when we see a Facebook request from a family member or professor. If we feel anxious showing our Facebook page to someone we know, what about a corporation we’ve barely met for the first time? Facebook isn’t designed to be a part of a job application. If there is a password, there is a reason, and that’s to decide who sees what.

In addition, going into personal information allows employers to judge—not like they don’t already—based on personal views such as politics, religion and sexual orientation. Information otherwise illegal for employers to request in a traditional interview can potentially become available via your Facebook password. Employers getting ahold of this information could skew their decision based on the religion you follow, or the political party you vote for, as represented in your Facebook profile. And even though it’s illegal, they could just claim they rejected you for a different reason.

In the United States Constitution, there is no direct statement on the right to privacy; however, as stated by www.usconstitution.net, the “Supreme Court decisions over the years have established the right to privacy as a basic human right, and as such is protected by virtue of the 9th Amendment.” Just like any other right protected by the Constitution and Bill of Rights, privacy is a right that needs to be respected. Employers have abused the recession as a means to pressure their employees and future employees to give up their privacy in order to obtain a position in a firm.

Fortunately, new laws in the states of California and Illinois have recently been enacted prohibiting employers from demanding access to workers’ password-protected social networking accounts. The government must step in because these laws help alleviate stress from the application process. More importantly, it protects the right to have a personal life without the fear of it affecting your career in the future. Ultimately, our lives are our own, and employers shouldn’t be allowed to force their way in.

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