5 Reasons to Steer Clear of Employee Facebook Passwords

After taking a leave of absence from his job as a corrections officer in Maryland, Robert Collins went to his former employer to reapply for his job. They asked him to submit to the usual – an application, background check, surrender of his Facebook password…huh?

“I was shocked,” Collins told National Public Radio‘s All Things Considered. “I was mortified when they asked me for my username and password.”

Collins went on to describe how the hiring official logged into his Facebook account and looked around to see if he had any images that were “gang affiliated.”

While businesses may see rooting around in potential employees’ social networks as good hiring protocol, a look at the labor law, not to mention Facebook terms of service, may beg to differ. Here are five reasons you might want to hold off on asking for personal social network password of potential hires.

  1. You Could Be Breaking the Law. Though there aren’t any court cases stemming from employers asking potential hires for their social network passwords expect that to change soon. The ACLU of Maryland is working with Collins to get the practice stopped.
  2. You Are Breaking Facebook Terms of Service. In a strongly-worded statement Facebook’s privacy czar says users sharing their passwords are blatantly violating Facebook’s user policy. “If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password, let anyone access your account, or do anything that might jeapordize the security of your account or violate the privacy of your friends,” writes Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer.
  3. You May Incur Legal Liabilities – Say you get access to a person’s account and you spot photos to be uploaded that contain criminal or abusive behavior. Now you’ve made you and your company liable for that information.
  4. You’re Opening Yourself Up to Lawsuits – Let’s not even imagine the nightmare scenario where you check a potential hire’s friend’s only information – images, status updates etc., – and find out their sexual orientation, religion, age or other personal information and you don’t hire them.  As that guy in Social Network tells Mark Zuckerberg, “You better lawyer up!” Labor law  forbids employers from discriminating against potential hires because of race, age, sexual preference, marital status, and other personal information. All of which can be discovered through social network accounts. Why go there?
  5. You’ll incur the Wrath of the 800million Pound Gorilla – Facebook isn’t above “initial legal action,” against users who abuse privacy policies. In the past they told you never go to war with someone who buys ink by the barrel. Yeah, same sentiment applies here!

Would you take legal action against an employer asking for your password? Would you defend your right to employee’s passwords in court? How do you use social networks to investigate potential employees?


Matt Powers is an Internet Marketer at Blue Soda Promo, an online promotional products company.  BSP imprints logos on items like sunglasses, tote bags, stress balls, koozies and stress balls at ridiculously low prices.  We make your brand POP

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2 Responses

  1. Chase D says:

    this is actually a very interesting article. It is strange to think that an employer would in fact ask for these sorts of details.

    Im certainly going to be sharing this article on my radio show today!!!

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