Should you disclose your Facebook password?
Over the past few years prospective employees have been warned, in the search for jobs, to carefully monitor what they release and publicise on their social media profiles for fear of harming their job prospects. But now it would seem the limit has been reached, with firms not only screening prospective candidates by social network profiles, but requiring access to their accounts and requiring employees to surrender their Facebook passwords. This practise is becoming more and more widespread, particularly in the US where certain states including California and Maryland are launching investigations into the legality of the practise.
Also, as this breaks Facebook’s own policies, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, has released a public statement on the current debate. The statement reinforces Facebook’s official policy, discouraging its users from surrendering this information to anyone, employers or others. Their principles surrounding the issue are in tune with the cries of those prospective employees who object to the practise readily raise: why should a personal profile affect how a person conveys themselves at work and, more importantly, if a user has set certain information as private from even their closest friends, what need, or right, has an employer to see it? And this is before even covering the legality of the issue.
And it isn’t necessarily a good idea for employers either. As well as these issues surrounding basic privacy, if an employer does choose to view an employee’s Facebook profile and for whatever reason chooses to fire or not to hire that person, they risk accusations of discrimination.
On the flip-side, however, employees who are found to be revealing confidential or detrimental information about their companies on social networks, or posting information that affects or conflicts with their agreed working state, they have opened the company up to scrutiny and damaged its image – it is no doubt for this reason that an employer might be keen to monitor what its employees are saying about it online.
Investigation is underway in the US to determine which, if any laws are violated by this fast-growing practise. In the UK, the practise is technically illegal under Data Privacy legislation, but does occur, made more prominent by the recent case of John Flexman, whose LinkedIn profile resulted in disciplinary action from his firm and his eventual resignation. While Flexman’s listing of being ‘interested in work opportunities’ on his LinkedIn profile and revelations about his day-to-day duties at his place of work was potentially disruptive to the brand’s appearance, the negative fallout of the lawsuit and the company’s association with privacy intrusion has done substantial follow-up damage. When it comes to the issue of surrendering confidential information through giving up a Facebook password, a company is wiser to stay away.