Last week, we wrote about the latest disturbing employment trend related to use of social media. It has already become common practice for employers to see what dirt they can find on job applicants by looking at their publicly available Facebook profile before or after an interview.
However, a growing number of employers are now asking applicants directly for their account passwords, or at least having them log in to their Facebook account on a company computer. Thankfully, Facebook representatives recently condemned this practice, saying that it both violates privacy and could expose the employer to potential employment discrimination liability.
It is not difficult for the average person to see how unethical this practice is. Speaking out on the matter, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union wrote: "People are entitled to private lives. You'd be appalled if your employer insisted on opening up your postal mail to see if there was anything of interest inside. It's equally out of bounds for an employer to go on a fishing expedition through a person's private social media account."
As we wrote last week, employers defend themselves by saying that job applicants have the right to refuse their "request." But jobs are scarce right now. And regardless of the state of the economy, individuals should never have to choose between their privacy rights and employment.
Furthermore, a representative for Facebook has pointed out that this new employment practice could actually put employers at greater legal risk. As it stands, employers cannot require employees to provide certain personal information about race, religion or other factors upon which it is illegal to discriminate.
But people do often post this information on their Facebook pages. If potential employers have unfettered access to a candidate's social media account and then fail to hire that applicant, can they prove they were not engaged in discrimination?
It is encouraging to see the world's largest social media site taking a stand against this unethical and potentially illegal practice. Hopefully, courts will soon follow.
Source: PCmag.com, "Facebook Condemns Those Requesting Passwords of Interviewees, Employees," Leslie Horn, Mar. 23, 2012