“Give me your Facebook password”

Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on Mar 26, 2012 in , , | No Comments

They’re asking for it, will you give it to them?

It’s been all over the internet: employers and prospective employers asking people to turn over the keys to their private lives. Facebook is fighting back, however that may not be enough protection for the majority of workers or job seekers hearing the request.

This issue strikes at the heart of what Americans perceive as their personal freedom–even in a very public forum like the internet. Let’s look at why an employer might ask to go behind the scenes of your life.

It’s About Their Business

This week, I heard a representative from a San Francisco Bay Area police department address why they, as employers, require applicants to divulge all login information to online networking sites. He said, they must verify a persons background to ensure the applicants wanting to become police officers aren’t criminals themselves. It makes sense, doesn’t it? We want those who “protect and serve” to be upstanding people.

Employers who are in a business or organization that require security clearances for certain employees would want access to online information also. Businesses concerned about thefts of their not-yet patented, or released products, want to protect valuable interests by ensuring employees aren’t discussing these products online. Additionally, employers don’t want employees fraternizing with the competition. Are these valid reasons to ask employees to reveal their private lives? Employers think so, they have millions, if not billions of dollars riding on what they produce.

Usually, if an employee is working for an employer that requires a security clearance, or works with highly sensitive information, they have been, (or will be), investigated offline too. Twice, I’ve had agents ask me about neighbors who work for the government, they want to know how their employees behave outside of the office. Wouldn’t you feel better knowing the employee who handles very personal information about your student loans and tax returns checks out?

But what if you work flipping burgers, does your employer have the same “valid reasons” to delve into your private life online? They might want to know what you’re doing when you aren’t working, which could negatively impact the smooth running of their operation. Does that warrant getting into your personal business? Your employer may believe so.

A Very Public Domain

I’ve said this in previous posts: if you don’t want someone in your private life, don’t make it public. Don’t put anything on Facebook (or another site) you deem private–the internet is public domain. Communicate with friends using your phone, or use your private e-mail account instead of Facebook or Twitter. Posting pictures online which could cost you a good job, isn’t very wise–especially in an economy struggling to recover. Why set yourself up for failure?

Big Brother is Watching

If you’ve never read George Orwell’s incredible sci-fi novel, 1984, (published in 1948), you might want to, his work was a dark vision of the future. In Orwell’s novel, people were controlled by “Big Brother” who watched their every move.

It seems as if Orwell was correct about the future, Big Brother is watching. If you haven’t been asked by an employer for your login information yet, have you at least given thought to how you’ll answer? One job seeker, a grad on the news, was asked by an employer (where he’d recently applied) for his login information. He flat out refused to hand it over. He obviously didn’t get an offer either. Was he right in defending his privacy at the expense of losing a career opportunity he wanted? I wonder how many times he’ll refuse to give in to a request in his final interview for a job he desperately needs?

Here’s an even bigger question: could you live your life offline more and conduct it in a way that wouldn’t jeopardize your current or future position? Something to think about before you post pictures of what you did on Spring Break to Facebook.



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