I had a different blog post in my head today, and then I read this news article and I just was appalled. My two second recap of this news article is that job seekers are being asked to give their username and password for their Facebook and email accounts so that potential employers can look at their accounts and see if there are any issues they might need to be aware of. Definitely read the full CBS News article here as it gives the full context.
Personally I keep my Facebook profile private to my Facebook friends only. To me it is a conversation between me and those I decide I want to be friends with on Facebook. I have been specific about who I have accepted and who I have not. I do not accept requests from everyone that “Friends” me, although others might. If I specifically made my profile public than it is any potential employer’s decision if they want to google me, or look at my public Facebook profile. If I make it private, then I should not be out of the running for a job because I do not wish the company to invade my personal life.
To me it is an invasion of my privacy and a matter of principle. It is also an invasion of your friend’s privacy (email addresses, contact information, and content). I can assure you, I am not appalled by this because I have something to hide. I am appalled because of principle. As it is, the boundaries between professional and personal lives are narrowing. You can do a bulk of work transactions on your phone, or from home, blurring the lines between your day job and your personal life. Is it too much to ask to have a few places that are sacred for your personal life? Maybe at the office you are a manager with a principled and driven approach to managing your team, yet on Facebook a softer side of you shows with comments regarding friend’s babies. Maybe that is not the side of you, that you want the office to see, so you purposely did not friend folks from work so you could have a life and friends separate from work.
What will be next? Will employers ask for passwords for our checking accounts and our credit cards to see what we purchase? How about our library card accounts to see what we are reading? I have many issues with anyone asking for a password for any account. For one thing, many of us use the same password for multiple accounts, so how is it even legal to ask for this type of private information? Another issue I have, is where is the privacy of our personal lives? Does the potential employer need to know that your good friend just died and your Facebook friends have been consoling you? No. You might have been just trying to keep it together each day as you work through the loss of your friend. Is that the potential employers business? No. Why would it ever be okay for a potential employer to have access to your email account, where you may receive emails from your bank, credit card company, mom, sister, etc.?
Maybe what is needed is not so much focus on social media and job seekers, but for employers to hone the skills of those interviewing to be more savvy with their “reading people” skills to ask the right questions of the job seeker. The interviewer can work to get to know the job seeker as a person sitting in front of them, rather than spending their time focusing on what their friends might post on their Facebook wall. What did employers do before Facebook and Twitter? Has Facebook become such a view into a person, that it overpowers the skills and experience of the job seeker?
Please read today’s CBS article. For more information about legislation in Illinois, here are more details, and in Maryland, here are more details. Both states are working to pass legislation that would bar employers from requesting usernames and passwords to job seeker’s social media profiles. More states should be passing this type of legislation. We deserve more privacy. Job seekers should not be put in a position that they feel awkward and withdraw their application or that they willingly go along with such invasion of privacy because they have mouths to feed at home.
Still appalled in Portland.
UPDATE ON 3/23/2012: Facebook has released comments urging employers not to ask for passwords.