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Alison Doyle

Employers Asking for Facebook Passwords

By August 11, 2012

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In another twist on employers checking out candidates on social networking sites there are reports of employers asking for the Facebook passwords ofjob applicantsand, in some cases, for current employees.Checking social media sites this way is called "shoulder surfing" because the employer is seeing everything you do, rather than just the public information you want them to see.

If this happens to you, all the work you may have done onadjusting your privacy settings to limit what some of yourfriends, family and others can see is basically useless. Once you have given out your login information,the company will have full access to your account.

Should employers be askingjob applicants for Facebook passwords? In my opinion, they shouldn't. There should be a line between personal and private and this would seem to violate it. In addition, giving out passwords to any of your online accounts isn't a good idea, because whomever you give it to doesn't just have the ability to view your account. It gives them full access.

If your login information gets into the wrong hands they can use your account as if they were you andlogin into third party sites that use Facebook logins for access, as well as to Facebook. If you're using professional networking Facebook apps they will see who you are communicating with. The same holds true for LinkedIn andother sites- anyone who has your password can see your account in its entirely.

There are no laws specifically protecting thesocial networkingprivacy of job seekers and employees. However, employers need to be careful because there are discrimination issues if the company selectively asks for information from some candidates, but not from all.That said, employers are on firmer ground if you voluntarily give them your password than if they check on you via other methods.

From both the job seeker and the employer perspective, because of those discriminationissues, it's important for companies to have guidelines in place when conducting social networking research on job applicants. Ifthe company has a social media policy there is a standard protocol that applies to all candidates and employeesand there are no potential discrimination issues.

Another thing to keep in mind, for employees, is that if you are using company computers to access your personal social mediapages you may beinadvertently providing access to the sites you visit online if you automatically login and depending on company social media policy, potentially violating that policy by spendingtime using company computer to accessFacebook or elsewhere online. Here's more information on employer social media policies.

What can you do if an employer asks for your login information? It's a tough decision, because not complying could cost you a job offer.Also consider whetheryou would want to work for a company that didn't respect your privacy. And would you want to have to worry about everything you post on Facebookduring your tenure with that company?

On the other hand, there isn't much that is really private online and there is a good chance that just about everything you post can be found- one way or another. Plus, social networking, when done right, can help your job search rather than hinder it.

That's why it's always important to be careful about what you post online and don't forget the "grandma rule" - don't post anything you wouldn't want your grandmother to see, especially when you're job hunting.

These top 10 social media do's and don'ts will help you successfully use social networking to job search and grow your career.

Read More: Employer Social Networking Checks | Violating Company Social Media Policy| Social Media Privacy Laws

Comments
March 14, 2012 at 5:07 am
(1) CollegeSenior says:

I think that is ridiculous. If I ever got asked for my Facebook password at a job interview or even during the application process, I would kindly state that I believe handing out my password is a violation of my privacy is an unsafe screening tactic, but I would be more than happy to log-in to my profile during the interview and have them look through my profile then. One’s personal life should not even have such a big effect on whether or not they are a competent employee.

March 14, 2012 at 5:54 am
(2) Nick@ IT Jobs says:

Asking for your Facebook password is way out of line. Facebook clearly states that you should never give out your login details under any circumstaces. There must be some law against employers using this as a reason to not hire someone.

Also what if you have no Facebook? Do you then not get the job because the employer feels they can’t have enough control over you?

March 14, 2012 at 8:38 pm
(3) CSR says:

Whether they ask it of all prospective employees or not, it is still discrimination! When they access your profile, they can see how old you are, if you have kids, are married; all potential reasons for discrimination! This is proposterous! They can’t ask for your online banking login to see where you spend your money. They certainly can’t come to your house and root through your mail. The profile that you make PUBLIC should be the only thing of interest to them, and that they can access without your permission.

March 15, 2012 at 1:14 am
(4) so-so funny says:

I think its a great idea. If you do nothing wrong then you have no problems. I would not want Everyone to know but my boss would be ok.

March 19, 2012 at 10:10 am
(5) MLR says:

I’ll give them my Facebook ID and Password when they give me their checking account number and PIN.

March 19, 2012 at 1:55 pm
(6) Digideva says:

If I was forced to give my Facebook login and password, I would then immediately delete my Facebook account. Also, any employee that accesses Facebook from a work computer is foolish since it is highly likely that there is a key logger program installed.

March 20, 2012 at 9:30 am
(7) C Fearghuir says:

This is indicative of the country moving into more reactionary times. The core assumption here is that your constitutional rights are open to negotiation if you decide you want to work for anybody. I find especially scary postings like those from so-so funny. Are you really so witless as to concede your rights for a paycheck and a pat on the head from your employer?

Employers, when it comes out that you feel the need to strip mine your employees privacy rights to protect yourself, it makes me wonder why I would want to do business with you. Think about it. If a retailer is willing to intrude upon their employees privacy via the Internet, then why would you think they would respect their customer’s privacy either?

March 20, 2012 at 3:48 pm
(8) Custodian says:

Letting present or future employers have your account password is like giving a child the keys to the candy store. From there any person in the organization can do anything they wish. Doing this is a nightmare waiting to happen and is about as insecure as just about anything you can do online. I would like to see issues like this wind up in court and with any luck the courts would stop present or future employers from asking or even otherwise getting this information. Maybe even a few multimillion dollar lawsuits might be in order here! I have a small part-time job and I know for a fact the people I work for could care less about my online activities.

March 20, 2012 at 4:55 pm
(9) Debbi says:

I do not post anything I am ashamed of but I would quit before giving anyone my password! I have a right to privacy and there used to be a thing called freedom of speech. But I still wouldn’t be making derogatory comments about my employer and it is none of their business what I do say or who I say it to outside their building. We are a step away from being communists. Fearghuir hit the nail on the head. I wouldn’t want to be an employee or a patron of a business that is so intrusive into my privacy.

March 20, 2012 at 10:50 pm
(10) MetalGoddess says:

I always love it when people say “well, I have nothing to hide” or “I’m not doing anything wrong.” While you may think you’re doing nothing wrong, the person wanting to snoop on you may find something wrong with what you do or what you say. Your idea of not doing anything wrong may be poles apart from what your employer thinks. Bottom line, what people discuss on their own personal time, on their own computer, in their own home, on their Facebook page does not concern the employer. Think about it this way. First they want to access your Facebook page, then your private email, then your house. Think about that for a minute. Think it couldn’t go that far? Ford Motor company did that in the 1920′s. They would send someone to their employees’ home to ask questions and look around. We could just be letting ourselves in for that.

March 21, 2012 at 8:01 am
(11) Lee Crites says:

I think my first response would be something like: “Wow! Thank you for that wonderful gift! I will start on date, and my salary will be amount, with of additional benefits. You can put that in writing while I wait.” Then sit back, shut up, and look at them.

It might not work, but I’m betting you can find an attorney and multiple media outlets that would love to help you figure out how to make it work.

Then other companies will (maybe) think twice about that kind of stunt.

March 22, 2012 at 7:08 pm
(12) ginny vogel says:

If you do nothing then there should be no problem???? Are you kidding? Personal privacy is not something you give up because, hey, you have nothing to hide so who gives a damn. I’m a good person and I guard my privacy. I believe that is called respect for one’s self. Dignity. Maturity. Do those words have meaning to you, so-so funny? Folks, it ain’t the Feds we need to fear. It’s corporations. They are the greatest threat to our personal freedoms. They and naive hicks like so-so funny

March 23, 2012 at 8:51 am
(13) mike says:

my response would be “so where is the line to file the descrimination lawsuite?” , ” you must have one, save me the time and just point me in the right direction”.

March 23, 2012 at 5:15 pm
(14) dontWorryAboutIt says:

For all of you who think, “I have nothing to hide so I think it’s a great idea”. Well, let me tell you this. I post pictures of my family, for my family on facebook, I post pictures of myself, family and friends for my friends and what I personally make public is what i have deemed willing to let ANYBODY see. So why should I allow my employer to stick their nose in something I don’t let my family or friends or the public see??? I work for the government and have a Secret clearance, I have nothing to hide and have been thoroughly vetted. I also have rights and It is my right to keep my privacy PRIVATE from anyone I decide to keep it from. Why don’t you let them come to your house and shuffle through your mail, photo albums, Letters, computer files and underwear drawer? U have nothing to hide right? WRONG.

March 24, 2012 at 8:53 am
(15) Lynsae Harkins says:

Why doesn’t the employer just ask to FRIEND the person on facebook… then if they want to see anything on an employee’s page, they can go and look. I think having an employee’s password would open up a world of lawsuits against an employer if the employee’s website were ever compromised. Something for employers to really think about. Other than that, I think it’s totally wrong for anyone to ask for your password to any website. Big Brother is watching…

March 24, 2012 at 10:38 am
(16) eyemale says:

maybe you have nothing to hide , but that doesn’t mean the people you had private IM’s with want the chats shared . this is more than your invasion of privacy , but an invasion of privacy of any one you had a private chat with. I have a lot respect for my family and friends and not about to sell them out for anyone , even if it means loss of income. any company that hires me benefits from my talents, and not what I post on some social website. if they rather have latter it their loss not mine.

March 25, 2012 at 11:32 am
(17) RM Catalina says:

Ask yourself, “why do employers want this information?” Officially they want to see if you are a gang member or have other risky habits or behaviors. But the fact is, they are going to use any or all of the information they find out about you to discriminate for “social fit.” Planning to have kids? They don’t want to hire you if you’re just looking to work for 6 months then go out on maternity leave. Any medical issues? They don’t want you taking time off work for doctors visits. Soccer mom/dad? They don’t want you asking to leave early. Wrong religion or lack of religion? Too old/too young (or not the right age to be your boss’ new drinking buddy)? Wrong sporting interest? — Your boss is looking for a golf partner or thinks you’ll make more sales if you can do deals on the golf course. Of course, I have been asked all of these questions direclty in job interviews. The dirty little secret is employers can get away with ANYTHING they want, because you can’t afford to sue them and you need a job. They can get your password to all of your email accounts, your bank accounts, the keys to your home to conduct an on-site search….there is no protection whatsoever.

March 25, 2012 at 11:46 am
(18) leo says:

Its not about having anything to hide..its simply a privacy issue, at least for me. My Facebook is for my friends and family. My employer is neither and does not need to know me on that level. I work for them, they pay me..end of relationship. They dont need to know my hobbies…what I did on my time off..and even if I had a personal complaint against them. All they need to know is can I do the job they pay me for…period.

March 25, 2012 at 11:52 am
(19) John says:

Here’s a very simple solution to this whole issue: Simply tell the potential employer that you don’t use social media after removing your real name from the Facebook/Twitter search option. After all, some people really don’t use these sites anyway. Or even better, create a “dummy” Facebook/Twitter account with your real name, one professional-looking photo, no wall posts of any kind, no friends accepted/followed and a password that you’d never use for any other online service. You’d then tell them that you have an account but you don’t really use it. You just created it because everyone else has one. Yep, sure boss, here’s my Facebook username and password. Good luck trying to find anything useful about me. I, myself, have a dummy account that I use specifically to view my real site so I can really see how it looks to someone who isn’t my friend and to check for security breaches. If a potential employer insists on violating your right to privacy, then the best thing to do is to beat them at their own game! Like “MLR” said: “I’ll give them my Facebook ID and Password when they give me their checking account number and PIN.”

March 25, 2012 at 1:17 pm
(20) Jason Perry says:

Haven’t heard of this occurring in the UK, but as an HR professional I’d view it as rather inappropriate for any employer to ask. As for a potential employer… Simply wrong! What next, they will ask for access to your online banking to conduct financial checks?

No – this is simply wrong. If an employer requires you to use social media in your work, they could require you to have a new account “owned” by the business – to which they have the password. Your personal account is “personal” and I’d refuse and would not wish to work for an employer who took a different view.

That being said, important to check what’s in your contract of employment and the companies social media policy.

Jason Perry – FCIPD
http://www.hunt4staff.com

March 25, 2012 at 4:21 pm
(21) Dean says:

I’d laugh because I don’t have a Facebook account. Personally i think the whole concept of Facebook,Twitter etc is insane. I might as well post my diary and personal info on every telephone pole or street light I pass.

March 25, 2012 at 8:40 pm
(22) Yummymummy90 says:

What happened to human rights?
If they have your password they’d then be able to access your account at any time they felt like, they’d also be able to access private messages which other people may not wish them to see! Next they’ll be askin you to hand over your mobiles sp they can have a look at who your texting and what youve been saying. What ever happened to keeping your work life and personal life separate ? You get told not to take personal issues into the area of work so they have no right to look into your personal life!! Personally I don’t think I could work in a company which felt compelled to check into my personal life, they have CRB checks to deternine wether your not a criminal so why do they need to see what you discuss with friends. Most people act different at work than they do with friends so I don’t understand why a company would benefit from having your password.

March 26, 2012 at 2:54 am
(23) Greg says:

Of course this is insane and SHOULD be illegal. What is stopping a potential employer from asking what your bank password is. Of course they may want to check your account that you are not dealing in large amounts of money which would indicate drug usage or traffcking. It is uttterly ridiculous.

March 26, 2012 at 2:55 am
(24) steve says:

if an employer asked me for my facebook password, i would look them straight in the eye and say that this interview is over, get up and walk out the door. then i would launch a campaign on facebook and twitter to tell the world about their request, including company name and interview.

wake up people, or we will end up in a police state

for a good look f where this can lead, watch the movie ‘the lives of others’ about the east german stasi

March 26, 2012 at 7:50 am
(25) Joe Giunta says:

Why is no one reporting which employers are asking for these password?

I pray for the day an employer has the b*lls to ask me for any password.

Why don’t they ask if they can come home and virecord me having sex, to make sure I’m not hiding anything.

March 26, 2012 at 11:59 am
(26) No way says:

Whoever thinks this is an acceptable practice needs to get checked out by a psychiatrist. It is absolutely irrelevant if you have “nothing to hide” as some say. This is a matter of YOUR privacy, to which you are ENTITLED by law. If an employer asked me to hand over my Facebook password during a job interview, there is no chance in hell that I am handing it over let alone working with them. If my track records and references aren’t enough for them, if they want details of my private life, then that is not a company that I would want to work for.

Your right to privacy should not be open for negotiation.

March 27, 2012 at 8:30 am
(27) David says:

I would say give me yours and I’ll give you mine.. I need to make sure that you are a ethical employer, by my standards. I need to make sure that you won’t make bad decisions that would cost my future income opportunities or even my hurt my retirement opportunities. Just because you are the boss, doesn’t make you smart or even ethical. Way out of line and would be a red flag that the org would be too goofy for me to want to be employed. More to life than a paycheck.

March 27, 2012 at 10:05 am
(28) Holly says:

Giving up your face book info to anyone is a seriously issue. When the president, congressmen, senators, cabinet members and pope give up their private information to the people, maybe. However, we know that is never going to happen.

March 27, 2012 at 2:47 pm
(29) Kelly says:

Aside from this being an invasion of personal privacy of the interviewee, it is an invasion of privacy for all of their friends!!!! I post pictures of my kids and my family regularly and the thought that someone I don’t know and didn’t give access personally could see them is VERY disturbing. Who knows what kind of stalkers out there are posting fake job ads just so they can surf the net for their next victim. If this issue isn’t nipped in the bud, I’ll be cancelling my FB account altogether.

March 28, 2012 at 11:50 am
(30) CP says:

I think this is a total Joke.

Would anyone want to work for a company that requests your login to a site like facebook?

I find it even hard to believe a company would even ask for such a thing!

March 29, 2012 at 11:13 am
(31) ORLOCK says:

“Sure…I’ll give you my FaceBook password, if you will let me have your housekeys”

March 29, 2012 at 10:16 pm
(32) Stentor says:

I’d tell them the truth, that I don’t have a FaceBook account. Then if they didn’t believe me, I’d try to log in with no success, then Google my name with FaceBook to show them that nothing comes up.

Then I would very quietly contact a lawyer about suing them into bankruptcy, buy an island in the Caribbean with the proceeds, and then say hello to my new neighbor, Johnny Depp.

March 30, 2012 at 3:57 pm
(33) Starman says:

One way to answer such a ridiculous question would be to say:

“I can give you that information for your own protection. If you had my private Facebook password and someone compromised my private information, I would be forced to bring criminal libal charges against your company and sue you for a whole lot of money. We wouldn’t want that to happen now, would we?”

You might not get the job, but they might reconsider asking that question in the future to anyone else!

March 31, 2012 at 12:52 am
(34) SharEd says:

Employers are getting out of hand. A major clinic where I live was going to require its employees to weigh below 185 pounds to keep their jobs and not hire anyone over 185 pounds. Fortunately the media got involved. Employees are tested for smoking and new hires can’t be smokers (they are tested). So people are not even allowed to smoke in the privacy of their homes if they want to keep their jobs. Employees are “encouraged” to sign up for healthy lifestyle programs, receive calls at home from nurses checking on them, and meet standards for high blood pressure, cholesterol, exercise, etc. I’m not against healthy lifestyles, but against employers totally invading a person’s privacy. The measurements have become so strict that people even with borderline conditions are being harrassed. Work standards can be met without controlling a person’s body and leisure time.

April 3, 2012 at 10:10 am
(35) Dugesh says:

“There are no laws specifically protecting the social networking privacy of job seekers and employees. However, employers need to be careful because there are discrimination issues if the company selectively asks for information from some candidates, but not from all. That said, employers are on firmer ground if you voluntarily give them your password than if they check on you via other methods”

Perhaps not specifically, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t laws covering this situation. Employers ooking at personal information on facebook may well violate Federal Employment laws. Doing so may also violate The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and The Stored Communications Act.

Finally almost assuredly a violation of Facebook’s terms of service and may well open the account owner to revocation of their account and other legal sanctions from Facebook.

April 5, 2012 at 4:59 pm
(36) Private Avatar says:

I had an interview last week and the bastards asked for my FB account. I gave them this Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/outsideofwork and walked out of the interview in rage.

Also expected not to hear from them again…

April 6, 2012 at 12:51 pm
(37) johnbrooks says:

Definitely against it. “Nothing to hide” is a lame response, as this is a direct attack on your privacy. As stated, from there they can see who old you are, how many kids, what problems you might have in the family environment or bad choices in life.

Also, word to the wise, don’t use their computer to log in to show your Facebook account, they might have keyloggers running and once you leave, they can access your account.

Use an iPhone or other independent ways to access your account from their office if needed.

Otherwise, get a LinkedIn account and use that as the means to describe yourself professionally.

April 9, 2012 at 7:02 pm
(38) eyemale says:

I guess some employers feel asking for a FB PW is the same thing as listing 3 people who know you as a reference. and some courts agree with that logic. the bottom line is until laws are passed for or against this tactic, there are those who will gladly give up this info for a job . and don’t give a crap about those who want to keep their private lives… private .

April 27, 2012 at 12:31 am
(39) Cmonrly says:

In the private sector, companies are allowed to ask you for your account information. This has been upheld my the supreme court as well as many appellate courts in the U.S.
See, the great thing about this country is that YOU get to make the decision whether or not to A) give them the information or B) log on in front of the potential employer (which is an acceptable alternative, just don’t forget to log out). Employers are not legally allowed to use this information to discriminate on you; however an employer has rights too, such as the rights to uphold the integrity, security and safety of the workplace, and legally they are able to do this by any means necessary. And if you don’t like it YOU get to make the decision to walk out the same door you walked in.

May 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm
(40) Buddy says:

Actually, Cmonrly, I don’t believe that is correct. If you know of any specific Supreme Court cases, I sure would like to see you post them. There’s a couple of problems with giving out FB info. One is that sharing FB login info is a violation of the license to use FB. Secondly, sharing FB login info, or even granting over the shoulder surfing access provides the employer puts the employer in a precarious position – it provides access to information that is discriminatory. For example, interviewers can’t ask for marital status, age, and other factors under current law to prevent discrimination. Requiring FB access essentially provides that information. An interviewee that didn’t get hired could very easily make the case they were discriminated by one of these factors if they were required to give access.
I’ve thought about it, and have determined that I would grant only grant over the shoulder viewing on condition of an employment offer.

May 21, 2012 at 6:48 pm
(41) sk8terboy1963 says:

If you give them your info then you are a complete idiot. End of story. If they wish to put you on the clock 24/7 and take care of all your bills, then they can try and run your life. It is none of their business. Period.

May 23, 2012 at 9:22 am
(42) Josh says:

Who are these mystery companies asking for passwords?

June 5, 2012 at 12:37 pm
(43) moobs says:

I almost never drop remarks, however I read a few of the remarks on Employers Asking for Facebook Passwords.
I do have 2 questions for you if you do not mind. Could it be only me or do a few of the remarks look like they are written by
brain dead folks? :-P And, if you are posting on other places, I would like to keep up with you.
Could you list of the complete urls of your
social community sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

June 6, 2012 at 12:31 am
(44) shauna says:

Password Protection Act Of 2012

June 27, 2012 at 6:57 pm
(45) skgsam says:

Does anyone know any company that is asking for Facebook or other social networking passwords?

I have read this and similar stories countless times over the past three months but I have yet to find one example of companies that ask for this info.

I have other HR professionals in my network. They also have never heard of a company name associated with this practice.

Thx

August 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm
(46) jenrose says:

when you apply for jobs with any of the big co’s or click thru on linkedin to a job application, during the process a dialog box appears asking if they can access your linkedin acct. What this means, I don’t know. But since my linkedin acct is restricted to the public, I say ‘yes’ so that prospective employers can see my references and contacts.

this is the country in which ‘what you say can and will be used against you’ – so it is best to live your life as if someone is always looking over your shoulder, because they are. Facebook and LinkedIn are public data repositories. You don’t own your accounts and you have no right to privacy when you post anyting in a public forum.

August 13, 2012 at 8:31 am
(47) Chris Lormant says:

I think that’s highly unorthodox and very unlikely. No well known organization is going to risk backlash from potential employees, who don’t want to reveal their log-in information. I simply don’t believe it.

Secondly, facebook has to be the absolute worst form of social media ever to have been invented. The sheer number of people addicted to social media is beyond ridiculous, it’s sickening.

September 8, 2012 at 9:03 am
(48) Albert says:

Just make another account and make the one they dont want you to see private.It worked for me I didnt get caught at all theres always a way around a system.Dont let the big companies tell you what to do unless your robots outside of work as well as inside of work being told what to do.

November 26, 2012 at 4:13 am
(49) Kelly says:

I understand if they want to see what goes on in your Facebook life, but this is ridiculous. It’s an invasion of privacy. If an employer asked for my Facebook password during an interview, I’d tell them I’m not interested in the job if their plan is to invade my privacy.

I have no problem if my boss sent me a friend request to monitor my outside work behaviour because I honestly have nothing to hide, but asking for passwords is going way too far.

November 27, 2012 at 7:12 am
(50) Carrie says:

I have nothing to hide, but that is irrelevant, my facebook page is MY facebook page. What’s next, following us to the pub to see who we hang out with? Peering through our window to see what we do behind closed doors? I have nothing to hide in any of these areas, but I like to choose what is known about me and by whom. I use facebook to chat to friends who are overseas, and family in other states. They tell me stuff in messages that is private. Not only is my privacy in question, but also the privacy of anyone who has sent me a private message!

December 5, 2012 at 5:13 pm
(51) James says:

Some are missing too many points. Even if YOU never post anything controversial, if your employer logs in under your account, they have access to your FEED — you could get nailed for something a friend or family member has posted!

Total violation of privacy and none of an employer’s business — can look at your public posts, but anything else is clearly out of bounds.

April 8, 2013 at 5:32 am
(52) Dave says:

1984 George Orwell predicted our future!

August 7, 2013 at 1:49 pm
(53) Chris says:

Hey not a problem for me, I don’t have any social media platforms.

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