The Lesson for Employers or Would-Be Employers Should Be Pretty Clear

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-03-27 Print this article Print


The two Senators have announced that they are preparing legislation prohibiting the practice as violation of privacy, which job applicants have little if any way to fight against.

€œThis is especially important during the job-seeking process, when all the power is on one side of the fence,€ Blumenthal said in his prepared statement. Blumenthal said that he€™s confident that the practice will be found to violate federal law. The senators noted that Facebook itself announced that such a practice would violate its privacy policies, and that the company intended to take legal action against any employer that violated it or forced Facebook users to reveal their log-in credentials.

The lesson to employers or would-be employers is quite clear: If you€™re asking potential employees for their social network log-in info, then you€™re almost certainly breaking the law.

Employers are allowed to see what your employees or applicants say in public, and you can do that by viewing the information they post in public. But if you go beyond what€™s public and base a hiring or employment decision on protected information, you€™re setting yourself up for serious legal problems. You could even find that you€™re committing a crime, an activity that would be certain to annoy your legal department.

If your human resources department is doing this, it might be a good idea to suggest that they take refresher training in EEOC nondiscrimination practices. You might also have them refer to the cases mentioned above for details on how they might be impacted by civil liability claims.

If you€™re a job applicant, the story is a little different. If you€™re applying for a job, and your prospective employer demands your social network log-in info, then you have a decision to make. Do you really want to work for a company that could be potentially violating federal law? If you really need this job, then ask the employer to make the request for credentials in writing. If you don€™t get the job, file a complaint with the EEOC, and use the written request as evidence.

Of course, you have to understand that there are a few jobs out there where the employer will still get to look at your private Facebook information. So if you€™re applying for a highly sensitive job at an intelligence agency, you€™d better hope that your Facebook pages don€™t contain anything incriminating.

But in reality, you should make sure that your Facebook pages don€™t contain anything that€™s potentially harmful to your employment or your peace of mind. Even if your employer doesn€™t have€”and can€™t get€”access, that doesn€™t mean your friends can€™t. And while I can€™t tell you whether to trust your friends, just ask yourself if there€™s anything in your Facebook profile that would be a problem if one of the people you trust decided to release it. If so, it shouldn€™t be there.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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