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Please Fill Out This Application: Give us References and Your Facebook Username & Password

With social media exploding in popularity more and more employers are looking at prospective employee’s Facebook pages. But, how far can they and should they go?

Face it, your employer or potential employer may want to check out your Facebook page. This past week I heard on the news that some employers are not only looking at what they are able to see on a person’s Facebook page, but are outright asking individuals to logon to their Facebook account so they can look at it. Whoa, can they do that? The fact is, right now, they can. Is it violating federal law? TechCrunch reported that this past Wednesday the House of Representatives voted down a proposed amendment to FCC legislation that would have prevented current or potential employers from seeking access to employee Facebook accounts. It is possible that new legislation addressing this issue will be introduced.  Further, Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Chuck Schumer (NY) are planning to introduce an equivalent bill in the Senate. In the meantime, what should you do if it happens to you now? 

I put the question to the students in my Human Resources class at in Pleasantville. As I looked out at the class I saw shock on most of their faces. Some insisted that an employer can’t do that. One young lady felt that asking for the information was akin to asking for the key to her diary  Another student said he would refuse and would not care if he did not get the job. I then asked, “What if you really need and/or want the job?” Would you give in? I saw the wheels turning. Don’t you just hate it when your professor asks you to think? Some changed their minds and indicated that they would comply. Others stood their ground.           

Even if an employer does not ask you outright to look at your Facebook page they can still peruse what is available to them. Obviously, the first thing to do is to make sure you do not have anything on any of your social media accounts that you do not want an employer to see. Next, use the privacy settings only allowing those you want to give permission to view your page. Keep in mind, there are “go arounds.” For example, I have heard that some companies will make up fictitious names and attempt to “friend” an applicant. I have also been told that if your page is blocked an employer might try to view one of your friends’ pages and gain access to information about you that way.        

Personally, I see demanding this information as an invasion of privacy. I would not ask this of an applicant. However, I would investigate if something alarming was brought to my attention. Pay attention to what you are posting. As Sergeant Phil Esterhaus of Hill Street Blues used to say, “Hey, let's be careful out there.”

Betsy Shaw Weiner April 02, 2012 at 11:15 AM
Just one reason, among many, many others, NOT to have a Facebook account. And if you do have one, NOT to post anything there that you wouldn't want your grandmother to see. There are other ways of communicating with people, particularly with people who are real friends, not "friends." That said, I would find any employer suspect if he, she or it asked for this kind of invasion of privacy. What would be next?
Ian April 02, 2012 at 11:58 AM
Would you still think of it as an invasion of privacy if you were being vetted for a position in public office?
Morey Amsterdam April 02, 2012 at 12:02 PM
I would also provide any such employer stool and urine samples and my colonoscopy report, and ask them to perform a prostate test and tell me if the red spot on my genitals was of any concern. This might dissuade them from this clearly 100 percent illegal invasion of my privacy. New york's dept of labor is pretty good if you bring illegal discrimination to their attention. Make sure you get an email trail from the employer and you will be ok.
George Datino April 02, 2012 at 12:14 PM
As the parent of 3 kids in their late teens to early twenties, I have been warning them and their friends, to really be careful on what they put out on Facebook and other social media. The World Wide Web is huge and people (college admissions, perspective employers, etc.) are out there and will look up their accounts to see what's out there. Why not? It is free, PUBLIC information that is available to help in evaluate a person. I may want to know if I could expect alot of absences on Monday mornings because the applicant spends the entire weekend partying, etc.. With that said, asking someone for their password or logging into their account while they are there is tantamount to going through one's mail and should be outlawed. What would happen if your boss asked you to open up a personal letter in front of him/her and read it? Now, the part of making up an ID and befriending the person to gain access is scaming a person to get information they wouldn't be privy to begin with and is unethical. The same as calling a person pretending to be a credit agency or something and getting someone's SSN or Credit Card number.
Francis T McVetty April 05, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Remember the expression "you are what you eat" ? Well your are what you post on Facebook. Be careful, VERY careful of your posts.

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