Employers Asking for Facebook Passwords

Intrusive much? Just in case I wasn’t disturbed enough by the survey (reported in yesterday’s Social Graf) which found that one out of five tech companies have rejected a job applicant because of something in their social media profile, now it turns out that some employers are asking potential employees for their Facebook profile passwords as part of the job interview process.

Apparently in a down economy employers can pretty much get away with murder, or at least gross violations of basic personal privacy.  In some cases cited by, employers including the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services have asked for passwords to profiles that aren’t visible to the general public so they can snoop for incriminating content -- in effect punishing job applicants who, one might think, ought instead to be rewarded for their probity. In a slightly less intrusive version, employers ask applicants to log in to their profiles during the interview.

According to the same report, other employers force employees to become online “friends” with the human resources manager, resulting in a situation so horribly awkward it could only transpire in the movie “Office Space” -- except it’s real. And contractual agreements not to post negative comments about the employer are now commonplace.

Public agencies in Illinois and Maryland, at least, may be prohibited from asking for job applicants’ Facebook profile passwords by new state laws. But it’s not clear whether any rules can effectively restrain private sector employers from demanding this kind of information. Job applicants are free to withdraw their applications if they don’t want to share access to their profiles, and “voluntary” sharing of passwords, while discouraged by social network user agreements, is unlikely to run afoul of the law.

In conclusion: God help us.

5 comments about "Employers Asking for Facebook Passwords".
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  1. Khalid Low from Reindeer Company, March 20, 2012 at 4:49 p.m.

    The Western world is clearly turning into a third world country. Instead of dictators, we have corporate power and greed and instead of police states we now are looking at Employer states.

    This reminds me of an article you wrote last year (U.K. Considers Social Media Ban) and also what was happening here with privacy policies.

    The only difference between the two is that in third world countries nobody can do a single thing about it unlike here, however, people are too busy to do anything about it too. So really, the difference is just the same.

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, March 20, 2012 at 9:18 p.m.

    Go to and type in "hate my boss" -- you'll be amazed at how employees bite the hand that feeds them.

  3. Michael Kaplan from Blue Sky Creative, March 21, 2012 at 7:04 p.m.

    Jeez -- and I thought having to pee in a cup was too much of an invasion of my privacy. But you're right -- if you want the job, you'll do what they want. I did.

    But what's next? Access to medical records? Credit report? The stuff you keep at the bottom of your night table drawer??

    There HAS to be a limit...

  4. Steve Kavetsky from AgooBiz, Inc., March 25, 2012 at 9:49 a.m.

    I am a huge proponent of U.S. citizens' personal privacy. This is why it pains me to say that I agree with the employers for checking their prospective employees' social media interactions. Here's why:

    It has become a staple in the P.R. & marketing world that the speed at which information travels [especially bad public relations info regarding a brand or company] is faster than light. Examples: Susan G. Komen Foundation's Planned Parenthood debacle [spread all over Twitter] or the YouTube video catching the FedEx employee throwing a customer's TV over a fence [reached millions of viewers in a short time].

    On the one hand, it is great that today consumers have a way to quickly fight back against a company's/organization's mistake or bad practices. On the other hand, the potential harm that a malicious employee could do to a company's reputation is too great nowadays. If an employee lies or embellishes something about their employer on Twitter or FB, it becomes very difficult and costly to refute that information [while it cost the employee no time or money to "plant the seed"].

    The PR damage that an employee could cause in a short time is too great & easy for us to just say personal privacy trumps all. Due to the complexity of this issue, I guess the courts will have to decide the solution to the battle between an employee's privacy & a company's right to protect itself.

    Great article- we've had to re-examine our own internal policies on the subject.

    Steve Kavetsky
    Co-Founder // The Social Commerce Network
    "WE work greater than me"

  5. Jackie Kmetz from SpaceCurve, March 28, 2012 at 1:20 p.m.

    Employers have been checking credit reports for years and using that to base decisions. I would not be surprised to see a company start a social credit score software ranking system for the HR community. Hmmm. . . maybe I've just come up with a new biz venture! Personally I would withdraw my application in the blink of an eye if anyone ever asked me for a private password. No way.

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