Employers request employees’ Facebook usernames and passwords
"Private Problem" WANTNEEDO by Kalan Lyra
Job seekers beware…background checks and drug tests are not enough for some employers anymore.
Recently, various employers have asked applicants for their personal Facebook usernames and passwords to make sure candidates are not taking part in illegal activities. Regardless of if that is the real reason or not, it is an invasion of our civil liberties and should be illegal.
It sounds preposterous, but with the economy in shambles, many people feel forced to sit by and allow their privacy to be invaded because they simply need a job. Individuals should not be put in a position where they have to choose between giving up their privacy or providing for themselves and their family.
Robert Collins, a corrections services officer in Maryland, found himself in the catch-22 situation when he had to reapply for his job at Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services after taking a temporary leave of absence after his mother died.
Collins provided the information because he needed the job but later complained to the American Civil Liberties Union because he felt it was an invasion of his privacy. Collins was hired for the job but has since left.
It’s no secret that we live in a digital world and, at this point, people should know they have to be careful what they post online, especially in public forums like Facebook and other social media sites because anything that has ever been posted can come up with a quick Google search.
The exception to the rule is if you are accessing these accounts while at work; you are not protected because you are using company resources to access personal information. It is irresponsible to access personal accounts online while using company time and resources, and in doing so you give up your right to privacy.
Plain and simple it is wrong for an employer to ask for an applicant’s personal Facebook username and password or login information for any personal account. Besides being a violation of privacy, it completely disregards other measures that have been put in place to ensure that people are not discriminated against in the hiring process.
The intrusion is not just about seeing pictures a person took on vacation, but that it gives employers access to information like sexual orientation, religious belief, marital status, age and political affiliation, which are all things employers are not allowed to ask during the hiring process to avoid discrimination against prospective job candidates.
Giving login information to employers does not only invade the privacy of the individual they are looking at but also that individual’s friends. Once employers have access, they can look through private messages that could contain extremely sensitive information.
That’s why more states need to follow suit after Maryland, which is the first state to successfully pass a bill that would prohibit employers from requesting personal login information to any form of social media or private digital communication.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley needs to sign it in order to make it a law, which he has yet to do. Several states have begun petitioning bills to prevent employers from asking for this type of information as well, including Massachusetts and California.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who have spoke out against the employers who have been using this practice, have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate these issues and verify that companies asking for this private information are not breaking federal laws already in place, specifically the Stored Communications Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
The Stored Communications Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act prohibits and penalizes unauthorized access of a computer and unauthorized access for the purpose of altering information that is not permitted to change.
Facebook has spoken out against employers asking for applicants’ or other employees’ usernames and passwords. Facebook terms and conditions state it is a direct violation for a person to share his or her password or gives access to his or her account to any other user. So far, no other social media sites have publicly spoken out against the practice.
Employers are crossing a fine line asking for individuals’ usernames and passwords and it needs to be stopped. Through Facebook, email or any type of digital communication, people have an expectation of privacy for anything they choose to keep private. Without that expectation, then it is a freedom being taken away from the public and that is unacceptable.
While privacy is not listed as a protected constitutional right, the Supreme Court has recognized that the right to privacy is a basic human right. It is an essential liberty and the government needs to take a stand and follow the precedence.