The Facebook privacy issue everyone seems to overlook
Over the weekend, I was having adiscussion with a few people and the topic of employers asking potential employees for their Facebook log-in information came up. Personally, I cannot believe any employer would think for a second that this is an acceptable way to conduct themselves during the recruitment process of filling a position. However, within my group, there was someone with the complete opposite viewpoint.
Now, before I go on, I’d like to reiterate that this is not the same thing as looking up an individual’s public Facebook account to see what information that individual has chosen to willingly publish. I think that sort of investigation is perfectly fine. What we’re talking about here is someone saying, “please give me your e-mail address and password; I am going to log into your account as if I am you and go through your sent messages, your received messages, and any other information that was never intended to be viewed by the public.”
To me, this is the equivalent of someone interviewing you for a job and then concluding the interview with, “okay, thank you for coming in, I’d like to look through your sent text messages, your recent e-mails, bank statements, garbage, USPS mail, and hey, maybe I’ll just stop by your house to sift through your closet.”
Just because this is new technology doesn’t make this type of activity any less an invasion of privacy. The individual in my group who seemed to be in favor of employers having the ability to log in to these accounts proposed the “if there’s something a potential employee doesn’t want seen, they shouldn’t post it on Facebook/have a Facebook account.” But again, this isn’t about someone publicly posting party pictures, etc.
This is about giving someone private log in information so that they can impersonate you, read through your messages (basically, the Facebook equivalent of your e-mail), and try to use context clues to find the answers to questions they cannot legally ask during an interview. Is it legal for someone to ask you if you’re gay during an interview? No. But with your log in information, they’d have free reign to see who you’ve messaged, what you’ve said to them, and base their hiring decisions off of that (on illegal grounds, mind you, but it would be nearly impossible to prove). If you’re a 30 year old gay man or woman who has exchanged messages with your partner, there, this potential employer now has information that would have otherwise been illegal to obtain. Is “Honey, I’ll pick up a gallon of milk on the way home” something “you wouldn’t want an employer to see?” No, but if it’s an employer who, in seeing that exchange between two women would use that as an excuse to not hire them, there goes the job, and you would be extremely hard-pressed to prove the employer discriminated… It’s a slippery slope, and it opens up a wide range of loopholes for employees to discriminate against protected classes. It’s near impossible to prove that that is the reason they didn’t hire a particular employee.
Congress now has another bill in front of them that would make it illegal for employers to request the log in information of candidates’ Facebook information. If you’re not in favor of an employer being able to read your texts, your e-mails, your mail, your bank statements, or your trash: I’d hope that you’ll see where I’m coming from.