From news about its IPO to a potential lawsuit with Yahoo, it seems that since Facebook has decided to go public, the company has had even more of a presence in the media. Late last week, the company threatened to take legal action against employers who asked for the Facebook passwords of employees and potential job candidates. Now that Facebook has customized its privacy settings to the point where you can control exactly what each one of your friends can see on your profile, when employers try to stalk your public page there usually isn’t much for them to see.
So, some have started to ask for potential hires’ passwords in order to “get to know you better.” In fact, almost 95% of employers who use social media to find out more about potential job candidates want to see more than just your public profile.
Of course, the problem with all of this is obvious. The last people who you would want to have access to your entire Facebook profile are your parents and potential employers. Not only is it a violation of your own privacy, but it also violates the privacy of all of your friends. Think about it — suppose you’ve set your privacy settings in a way that only one of your friends can see your entire profile. If that person is then forced to give his or her password to a potential employer, now that totally random person who you’ve never met before can potentially see everything on your page.
On the flip side, employers that ask for Facebook passwords also open themselves up to being accused of discrimination based on what they find on a candidate’s profile, such as age, sexual orientation, etc.
As a result, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, Erin Egan, issued a statement saying that the company would “take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action.”
Also, after multiple reports of users being forced to hand over their passwords, Facebook decided to amend its Statements of Rights and Responsibilities.
However, a few days ago, Facebook seemed to rescind its previous statement and released another statement to the press. In this, the company said,
“We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think it’s the right thing to do. While we do not have any immediate plans to take legal action against any specific employers, we look forward to engaging with policy makers and other stakeholders, to help better safeguard the privacy of our users.”
In fact, such legislation is already underway. Two states — Maryland and Illinois — have proposed legislation that would prevent employers from discriminating against people who refuse to provide employers with access to various social media profiles.