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The Corporate Observer A Publication by Attorneys Devoted to Protecting Consumer Rights

What’s Your Facebook Password? Prospective Employers Want To Know

Posted in Consumer Protection

There has been a lot of buzz about employers asking prospective employees for their Facebook passwords. Some companies even make you “friend” their HR staff so they can keep a close eye on your activities.  Hmmmm???  What if you don’t get the job?   Do they agree to lose your password?

The legalities of “Facebook Stalking” as part of the job application process is surely not settled.  As we know, social media websites have facilitated an explosion of TMI (too much information) on the web.  So if a prospective employer obtains your password, they can count the number of red Solo cups at your feet in the pictures of you at a friend’s birthday party.  But ironically, they are forbidden legally from asking you about your social drinking habits during an interview.  Hmmmm?

By asking for a Facebook password, employers are essentially asking for the answer to questions that by law they are not allowed to ask.  By giving up your password, are you consenting to a new level of scrutiny?  Since the boom of social network is new, the law has yet to catch up and there are no precedents to refer to regarding what employers can and cannot do with the information on the World Wide Web.

Sure, logging in to Facebook would allow an employer to assess dependability, earnestness, and other traits relevant to the job.  But it also places employees at a higher risk of falling victim to discrimination.  Apart from being overtly unlawful, that’s unfair to prospective employees.

For instance, a 2010 study by the Stern School of Business found that employers associate a woman’s “married” status with “motherhood and less time to work.”  In other words, asking whether a prospective employee is married—or looking it up on Facebook—is one way to unfairly (and well, illegally) discriminate against them.  Similarly, finding of an applicant’s involvement in the LGBT community, their country of origin, their drinking habits, their religion—you name it, Facebook has or at least may have it.  It’s one thing for someone to choose to display their marriage, kids, or partying lifestyle; it’s another for an employer to ask for private information in order to seek it out.

Last week, House Republicans shot down an amendment that would have banned employers from asking for Facebook information.  This is an issue that is not going away.


Assisted by Setareh Ebrahimian