By Marissa Levy
It’s a well-known fact that employers often use the Internet to vet
their applicants, scouring Google and social networking sites such as
Facebook and LinkedIn to aid in their background checks. But as these
social networking sites roll out more stringent privacy protections
that allow users to block access to their profiles, employers have
started taking more drastic steps to get the scoop on their
Rather than trying to get around these new privacy protections,
probing employers are cutting straight to the source by asking
candidates to hand over their Facebook login information when applying
for a job. Others employers request candidates to open their Facebook
profiles during the interview itself, allowing their would-be bosses
to scroll through applicants’ private information right in front of
their policies against sharing passwords. On Friday, Facebook
executives warned employers not to ask job applicants for their
usernames and passwords to the site to search their applicants’
Troubled by reports of the practice, Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of
New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said they are calling
on the Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission to launch investigations. The senators are sending letters
to the heads of the agencies.
Sen. Schumer says: “An employer shouldn’t be allowed into that almost
sacred domain of things you just share with your five best friends, or
your spouse or your child. You shouldn’t be required to give up your
private life just to get a job.”
David Gerwitz, renowned technology journalist and U.S. policy adviser,
agrees with Sen. Schumer. “Asking to view your public postings is like
asking for your home address and then taking a drive by your house to
see where you live. Asking for your Facebook password is like
demanding the key to your house, your alarm code, and to be put on
your bank account as a signer. They are very different degrees of
request and it’s quite unfortunate that people are conflating the
two,” Gerwitz said.
ACLU advocates are also crying foul, saying this practice is a clear
violation of personal privacy. Furthermore, opponents believe this
practice just another way of finding out information, such as gender,
race, religion, age and marital status – all details that are
protected by federal employment law. Lawmakers in California, Maryland
and Illinois are considering legislation that would ban this practice.
Out of work candidates may feel pressured to turn over their login
information to get hired in today’s incredibly competitive job market.
But the question is, should you have to turn over your private
information just to keep yourself in the running for a position?
Some candidates have refused point blank, while others have complied
with employers’ requests. Robert Collins handed over his Facebook
login information when applying for a job with the Maryland Department
of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Read more about his
experience in a transcript of his recent interview with NPR.