Employers Want Your Facebook Password—What's Next?

Some companies are requesting Facebook passwords or to "friend" someone on staff so they can access your private information during the hiring process. Given the swift and high-powered pushback, this will likely stop; however, that doesn't mean there aren't other privacy issues to be aware of.

We all know that, if they could, HR folks would look at our Facebook pages and photos during the hiring process to learn more about us. That's why most of us made it possible only for our friends to see them.

But the game is changing, as recently some companies are asking you to either provide your password or friend them in order to get access. And they're doing it while you're on the phone with them, so there's no chance to clean up your page beforehand. And if you refuse, it could be the end of the interview and your chances to land that job.

As a result of these practices coming to light, Facebook has told employers not to demand passwords, warning them it's both an invasion of privacy and it could make them vulnerable to charges of discrimination. This is because your Facebook page may contain information that allows the employer to determine your race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. All of these are classified as protected information by the federal government.

Besides pushback by Facebook, the ALCU and politicians are getting into the act. Sens. Charles Schumer and Richard Blumenthal are even asking for the Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate.

Given the fast and high-powered pushback, I expect employers to back off rather quickly from overtly asking for your password or even asking you to friend them.

However, someone in the HR department will still be able to see your base Facebook page, as well as your LinkedIn page just by looking you up. Even those pages typically contain pictures that can provide legally protected information, all of which can either consciously or subconsicously affect whether you get hired or not. And it's not just this type of base information that counts; it's well-researched that a person's looks can determine hiring, salaries, and promotions.

So, go ahead, stand up to protect your privacy and make sure you only allow real friends to see your Facebook page. But realize that, while that's great, it still won't mean HR can learn more about you than you may desire.

[Image: Flickr user Bernard Goldbach]

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