Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Employers asking for applicants' Facebook passwords

Like many newspapers, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, my local paper, regularly publishes informal polls on the homepage of its website.  The poll that's up today is the following:

Kind of an odd question, if you ask me.  At first, I thought that it might be a random off-the-wall question or perhaps a poorly phrased question written by someone who thinks you need a person's password to find that person on Facebook.  But after looking around, I found an article titled, "Employers ask job seekers for Facebook passwords."  The authors of this Associated Press article report that some employers actually ask applicants for their login info so that they can look at the applicants' private information.

A law professor quoted in the article expressed my own sentiments about this idea, saying that it is like asking for the keys to an applicant's house.  Although at least one of the employers mentioned in the article does not require that someone turn over his or her information, the first case mentioned in the article involves an applicant who withdrew his application because of the policy.

It is my position that requesting an applicant's login information, let alone requiring that an applicant turn it over, is inappropriate.  And this has nothing to do with whether or not there is damaging information in the applicant's account.  A password to an email or social networking account is a valuable tool.  And it is usually unwise and irresponsible to turn it over to anyone.  A request that someone turn over a password is a request that someone act irresponsibly.  You wouldn't give a potential employer a stamp with your signature in it, and you wouldn't give him the pin number for your debit card.  Giving a potential employer your Facebook password is almost as outrageous.