March 21, 2012

Access Denied

Let's talk about ethics for a second. According to Gizmodo and the Associated Press:

Prospective Employees Are Now Being Asked for Facebook Login Details

It's no surprise that employers check out the Facebook profiles of prospective employees—after all, you can learn a lot from what people choose to broadcast. But reports are amassing of employers asking recruits for their login details—and that's a step too far.

Associated Press reports that when Justin Bassett, a New York statistician, was interviewed for a job recently, he was asked to disclose his Facebook user name and password. Bassett withdrew his application—sensible man—but many people might not be in a position to hinder their future employment prospects.

Apparently - according to other things I've been reading recently - this kind of thing is becoming the rule, not the exception. I have to admit that I'm kind of horrified. Asking for this kind of information is something that would never even cross my mind since it seems so terrifically unethical and an inherent invasion of privacy.

Of course, no one asked me. But I will ask you. Is requiring or even asking for access to your Facebook account ethical?

Posted by Chris at March 21, 2012 7:39 AM

Even asking is unethical. Shouldn't there be a line between work and private life? As long as what you do in your off time doesn't impact your job, why is it their business?

Posted by: Elizabeth at March 21, 2012 9:12 AM

Um, HELL YES it's unethical. This is the first time I've heard of such a thing. My damn husband doesn't even have my Facebook login information. I have better sense than to put anything on Facebook I wouldn't want a potential employer to stumble upon, but asking for login information is crossing a line. Actually, it seems like that should be illegal.

Posted by: Fraulein N at March 21, 2012 9:21 AM

There is a legal and illegal way to interview a person. I've had the training. I know you can't ask if they're married, if they have kids, if they are fat, or weak, or religious. You can only ask them if they are capable of doing the requirements of the job you have presented. How this is legal is beyond me. It shouldn't be.

Posted by: Brad at March 21, 2012 9:26 AM

I would put this akin to asking for a personal email password. This is baffling to me. Where is the line?

Posted by: lovey at March 21, 2012 9:35 AM

There is no line employers can ask about your sex life and fire you if you are birth control and they can evaluate your ability to perform a job based on your private interactions with your friends on facebook. Our country has gone batshit crazy. It SHOULD be illegal and I advise my students to decline. Set your facebook so that it can not be found on internet searches....deny it exists......set everything to friends only and then make sure you only friend people you REALLY know...(I see some people with thousands of friends...because of those dumb games)
it's none of their business!

Posted by: Lisa at March 21, 2012 9:40 AM

Snooping on a potential employee's FB account is one thing - if you've got it set to a "public" security setting, then you've put it out there in the open for the whole www to see. Asking for your login information is an invasion of privacy.

Posted by: Julee at March 21, 2012 9:55 AM

I think it is completely unethical. What's next asking for your e-mail address and password?

Posted by: Kerry at March 21, 2012 10:07 AM

I think anything you put out on Facebook you should assume, regardless of your 'privacy' settings, is public. I mean, really.

That said, I would never hand over my login information. I was chatting with a lawyer co-worker of mine about this yesterday, and kind of came to the conclusion that temporarily 'friending' them would be acceptable, but not giving the login info.

There are SO many ways 'around' FB privacies. Anyone who thinks they are secure and truly private should think again. Anyone who truly wanted to gain access, I believe, could.

Just my thoughts.

Posted by: 3jaysmom at March 21, 2012 10:12 AM

Totally over the line. I would walk out of the interview if I was asked. Assuming of course I didn't need the job to feed my kids. And there lies the rub...

I read somewhere that some forward thinking college kids are maintaining two Facebook accounts. One under their real name, where they post the pictures of the frat helping rebuild the park playground, and a second account under a nickname or fake name, which is their "real" Facebook account.

When co-workers friend me on Facebook, I sandbox them in the "work" group - which has exactly the same rights as the general public. They see nothing, they know nothing.

Posted by: COD at March 21, 2012 10:29 AM

Invasion of privacy??? It may be OK to "friend" a perspective employee on Facebook, but passwords are off-limits!!! A password is to help protect what is posted by the user.... And, yes, I would accept a "friend" request from a perspective employer because I am careful as to what I post for the world to see.--i.e. anything on the Internet!

Posted by: Krush at March 21, 2012 11:05 AM

Completely unethical. I can't imagine how the practice has withstood legal scrutiny so far. Employers aren't allowed to ask my age, sexuality, marital status, whether I have children, or my age. Every single one of those things becomes apparent on my facebook timeline. Plus, I'd be allowing that person to invade my friends' privacy and give them the opportunity to pose as me online. Way, way over the line.

Posted by: kate m at March 21, 2012 11:06 AM

Its definitely abusive to ask for that. The employers do it because they have leverage right now. As the economy improves, they will lose the leverage and then it stops.

One thing I don't understand is why other people have only one FB account. :)

Posted by: Jon (was) in Michigan at March 21, 2012 11:36 AM

I am torn. If you assume employers check you out on the internet, then you may find yourself in the situation where you might be at risk for them assuming the page of someone else with the same name might be you...

Posted by: Kaz at March 21, 2012 12:08 PM

What? That's terrible. If you're daft enough to leave your account open to the public that's one thing, but I feel it's totally unethical for a prospective employer to go snooping on you like this.

Kaz above does make a good point, my sister-in-law and I have the same name, I use my middle name on FB so people know the difference but an employer wouldn't know that.

Posted by: Katherine at March 21, 2012 1:57 PM

i think it would be pretty reasonable for HR to ask permission to "friend" you for a limited amount of time and kinda see what you're all about, in all your privately public glory. but asking for your password so they can log in as you and spy on your private messages and history? super creepy and unethical.

Posted by: kati at March 21, 2012 2:10 PM

First of all, I only put stuff on Facebook that I'd be comfortable with my mom, a grandparent, or a coworker seeing. If HR wants to see what I've got up there, I'll friend them for a limited time period.

But asking for login information is ridiculous. What else would they like: My debit card PIN to check my bank balances? My house keys to check dusting skills? My car keys to see how hard I ride that E?

What is the company willing to pony up so *I* feel comfortable working there? A copy of internal quarterly reports? A copy of their security protocols so I can feel confident I'll be safe at work and my NPI will be well-protected?

I'm going to step off my soapbox now before I get really riled up...

Posted by: Mommy's Minions at March 21, 2012 3:03 PM

I saw this in the paper this morning! Dude, that sucks. If someone asked me that in an interview, I'd be all, "Can I have YOUR login for Facebook?" and then I'd lecture the interviewer about relationships based on mistrust (about which I am an EXPERT) and then withdraw my application. I'd be willing to send a screenshot, but I still think it should be illegal for them to even ask.

Posted by: Brooke at March 21, 2012 4:18 PM

Crap. Absolute crap.

Posted by: Aimee Giese | Greeblemonkey at March 21, 2012 5:03 PM

I totally agree that this is unethical, but it also makes me think of another aspect of FB (and the like) that really bothers me and about which I can do strictly nothing...
I have a FB account that isn't quite my real name; the "personal details" on my page are real, so actual, real people who actually, really know me can find me (i.e. people I went to university with - the dates I put are real, the photo is really me...). As a part-time teacher, however, my students in theory can't find me because I haven't included the universities where I work. BUT: if they type in my real name, they land on the page of someone who has the exact same name I do (a minor miracle in itself, as neither of my names is even remotely common...). And SHE goes out and gets drunk all the time. She lives in England and is much younger than I am, so I don't care about students finding it (they'll figure out it's not me immediately because she looks nothing like me).
BUT (2): my main job is as a freelance medical and technical translator. I have never seen at least 90% of my clients. What about if THEY check out FB? You know, doing a background check on me before sending me a confidential document to translate for example? I've worked for WHO, huge multinationals, renowned peer-review journals etc. I can't believe the "not me" FB would impress them, and they mightn't realise it's not me - they don't know how old I am, what I look like or even where I live...
I love social media, it's my lifeline, but this aspect freaks me out.
I dread to think what it must be like for people with more common names (though perhaps it's not a problem - if your name is Michael Jones, there'll be so many FB pages it won't matter; with my real name, there's only one... who's not me).

Posted by: Kirsty at March 21, 2012 5:57 PM

They might as well come home with you for a week and be a fly on the wall.

Totally NOT appropriate and DEFINITELY crosses the line. While I'm cognizant of what I put on FB (and keep it "clean"), it's all subjective -- so my version of "clean" isn't the same as some employer's version of "clean"...

Posted by: ironic1 at March 21, 2012 6:41 PM

It's not even mildly ethical. While I don't have a Facebook account, I'd welcome being asked for the login information during an interview so I could decide that the job and those in charge weren't worth my time or energy.

Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' at March 21, 2012 7:35 PM

Can they also ask for your house key, so they can come in and look in my underwear drawer? (Which, FYI, is NOT where I keep the embarrassing stuff, unless you count my granny panties as embarrassing.)

Posted by: Becky at March 21, 2012 10:06 PM

Absolutely not.

What a person does with their private life is their own business. HOWEVER whatever is on their public profile? Fair game. If you're stupid enough to brag about going drinking that Thursday before you called in "sick"....

Posted by: Mel at March 21, 2012 10:06 PM

Well, it's super articulate and all...but my reaction? "Aww hellz nah!"

Posted by: Heather at March 22, 2012 12:11 AM

Yeah, providing login info is stupid and not right. who you are on facebook... maybe.. but it should be optional.

I would suggest anyone applying to a job do an internet search on themselves, so they can see what employers are seeing and be aware if you need to "defend" yourself (again, in case there is the someone-with-the-same-name issue)

Posted by: Kaz at March 22, 2012 8:55 AM

OK, I take back my offer to "friend" HR:

Posted by: Mommy's Minions at March 22, 2012 1:05 PM