Should you hand over the keys to your social media accounts to your employer?
According to a recent article published by the Associated Press (article here), some companies and government agencies have adopted the practice of asking employees to hand over their user names and passwords to their personal social media accounts as a condition of employment.
Law enforcement agencies, city governments and private & public employers all over the country have adopted the shocking practice of asking employees for their account information. In some cases, some employers have even asked for e-mail passwords.
Even though the job market is improving, many job seekers simply can’t afford to decline this request. It may be a matter of protecting privacy, but there are quite a few people who are willing to sacrifice that principle to gain employment.
Since the release of this article, numerous critics have hotly questioned the ethics and legality of employers asking for social media passwords. It has even garnered the attention of Capitol Hill.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have appealed to the United States Department of Justice to conduct an investigation into this practice.
While this may not seem ethical, the real question remains is this: Is it legal?
Senator Schumer believes it is not. “The good news is that it may be illegal already. We do have privacy laws but they’re not updated to deal with modern technologies like Facebook“, he said. Facebook pages usually contain information (gender, race, religion and age) that is already protected by Federal employment laws. The senators want to fill the gap in these laws to contain modern technologies that include social media.
Even Facebook has come out with a statement condemning the action. Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan had the following to say. “This practice undermines the privacy expectation and the security of both the user and the user’s friends.” According to Facebook, sharing your login information is a violation of its terms of service.
So, how muddy are the waters when it comes to your social media privacy and your legal right to keep it private from employers or hiring managers? I feel that it’s a little bit murky. I agree that the practice of asking for login information is an invasion of privacy, but it really doesn’t quite seem to me to be illegal.
When you sign up for a personal social media account, it includes YOUR personal information. In my opinion, businesses logging into someone’s social media account blurs the line between that person’s personal and professional life. There is no separation. Imagine if businesses made it mandatory for you to divulge personal details about your life, show everyone in the company your personal photos, etc. True, this is a far fetched scenario, but I think it drives the point home. An employee should have the option to decide if they want to incorporate any of their personal life into their professional one. They should not be forced to do so, which is what these companies are doing.
Need tips on what to do if you’re asked for this information? Visit the article at Mashable.com here.