The Hippo


Apr 24, 2014








Keep passwords to yourself
Your job shouldn’t depend on losing your privacy

By John Andrews

Some things are off limits during a job interview. You can’t be asked your age, your religion, your marital or family status, or anything about your health. Even if something seems relevant to the job at hand, a question has to be asked in a very narrow and specific way to be considered legal.

Or they could just ask for your Facebook password and read it all from your profile.

At least, that’s been a growing practice among employers anxious to know everything they can about prospective employees. With a lot of folks wising up and making their profiles private, it’s easier to simply require that you hand over your Facebook login credentials along with your résumé, references, portfolio and drug test. That way, they can pore through every status update and comment you’ve ever made, every photo you’ve been tagged in, and who you associate with.

If that sounds crazy invasive to you, we are on the same page. So are two U.S. senators, Chuck Schumer of New York and Dick Blumenthal of Connecticut. Last weekend, they asked the Justice Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate the practice to determine whether the practice runs afoul of the law as well as common decency.

It’s easy to advise applicants to simply refuse to give up their passwords — and if asked, you absolutely, unquestionably should refuse — but if that compliance is the difference between you and the next guy, you’re getting passed over unjustly. Even asking, the senators say, should be (and might already be) illegal. In an economy with unemployment over 8 percent, employers already have a significant advantage over workers.

Keep in mind that your username and password don’t just allow employers to view everything you’ve done on Facebook; they could potentially edit or delete posts, change contact information, even spend your money. Would you give a potential boss the power to fake a letter or e-mail to your friends and family? To access your bank account? Then don’t give out your Facebook password.

In fact, doing so violates Facebook’s own Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, what they call the terms and conditions to which all members agree by using the site. Under section 4, “Registration and Account Security,” commitment 8 reads, “You will not share your password … let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.”

Your password-protected accounts are one thing. Quite another is information published on the wide-open Internet, whether it’s a public Twitter feed, YouTube channel, discussion board, or blog. If you put stuff out for the world to see, well, employers are part of the world, and they can see it. They’re still not allowed to make a hiring decision based on age, gender, etc., though. (This is as good a place as any to remind you that I am so totally not a lawyer and these words should not be construed as personal legal advice.)

To be sure, media reports of this whole practice are sparse, but they do exist. The Associated Press recently reported that sheriff’s departments in McLean County, Illinois, and Spotsylvania County, Virginia, have applicants sign in or friend the interviewer on the spot. Nipping a small problem in the bud before it becomes a standard practice is plenty of reason for new law.

No passwords will be broadcast at

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