Employee Passwords Are None of Your Business, Says Facebook

Facebook issued a warning to employers, stating that requesting passwords is an invasion of privacy.
March 23, 2012

If the growing number of companies and law enforcement agencies asking job applicants for Facebook passwords was encouraging you to do the same, think again.

Facebook Friday issued a warning to employers that requesting passwords is an invasion of privacy that opens companies to legal liabilities.

The world's largest social network also is threatening legal action. Wrote Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer, in a lengthy post: "We'll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges."

The company says it has seen a "distressing increase" of reports of employers attempting to access user accounts, Facebook's Egan wrote. "The most alarming of these practices is the reported incidences of employers asking prospective or actual employees to reveal their passwords," she said.

A user should never be forced to cough up private information just to get a job—"and as the friend of a user, you shouldn’t have to worry that your private information or communications will be revealed to someone you don’t know and didn’t intend to share with just because that user is looking for a job," Egan wrote.

The company has changed its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, making requests to share or solicit a Facebook log-in a violation of the rules.

The American Civil Liberties Union this week used the reports to urge support for its "Demand your dotRights campaign."

ACLU attorney Catherine Crump called the password solicitation an "invasion of privacy."

"You’d be appalled if your employer insisted on opening up your postal mail to see if there was anything of interest inside," she said. "It’s equally out of bounds for an employer to go on a fishing expedition through a person’s private social media account."

The ACLU of Maryland currently is fighting for a social media privacy bill in the state, where the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services asks applicants to "voluntarily" provide access to their social media accounts during interviews.

How do you check out job applicants? Google? Facebook? References?

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