Employer’s Asking for Facebook Credentials

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There has been a rash of complaints and public outcry arising over companies asking potential employees for their Facebook login credentials. Several complaints have been filed in Canada and the United States of documented cases in which job applicants have been asked to surrender their Facebook username and password during job interviews.

Facebook Cartoon

Using social profiles as a resource to screen potential employees is not new, but demanding that users turn over passwords has garnered attention from government officials and has been condemned by Facebook as “distressing”

This disturbing trend in the US job market has legislators hastening to protect individuals from such practices. Fortunately labor laws in Canada already offer strong protection against employers asking for personal information. US laws are much more lax and there have been many instances reported where prospective employers has required employees to reveal this information as part of the vetting process. In other cases, candidates have been asked to log onto their social networks on computers at the job site or requested to become friends with a hiring manager while still in the interview process. Illinois and Maryland have both tabled legislation that would forbid public agencies from gaining access to social networks.

Facebook’s chief privacy officer, Erin Egan cautioned in a post on Friday that if an employer discovers that a job applicant is a member of a protected group, the employer may open itself up to claims of discrimination if it doesn’t hire that person.

“If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password,” Erin Egan wrote. “This practice undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends,” wrote Facebook chief privacy officer Erin Egan. “It also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability.”

In the light of these reports, Facebook is warning employers not to demand login credentials from job applicants stating that is a blatant violation of privacy and of the Facebook term of use. Companies that access user profiles could easily find themselves facing a barrage of discrimination charges.

Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut want Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether employees asking for Facebook passwords during job interviews violates federal law.

Job seekers are within their right to ask employers to explain their motives behind obtrusive questions. Even if candidates resist such strong-arm tactics experts caution they should be on the lookout for more insidious ones.

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