The news media recently exploded with reports that employers are asking prospective employees for their Facebook passwords. A few years ago, I heard of interviewers asking prospective employees if they could see their Facebook pages. This takes it to a whole new level, and I think it’s disrespectful.
A lot of prospective employees are desperate for work, so I suspect a lot of them are complying with the request. I think a lot of people are shocked by the question and are saying “yes” without fully realizing what they are doing.
If a prospective employer asked for my Facebook password, my first thought would be two choice words (seven letters – you figure it out). Hopefully before those words escaped my lips, I’d temper that thought with something like, “I’m a very private person. I use Facebook to connect with close friends and family. I’d rather not give you that information.” I could follow that up with a statement that all my tweets are public if they want another glimpse into who I am as a person online.
I look at this question like when a police officer asks to look in your bag. They wouldn’t ask the question if they didn’t need your permission. You have the right to say “no” to the cop, just as you have the right to say “no” to prospective employer who asks for your social media passwords.
When a prospective employer asks for your social media passwords, they are opening themselves up for liability. There are a lot of things an employer can’t ask about in an interview, and they can be sued if they make hiring decisions based on things like race, gender, disability, or religion. If they have access to your otherwise privacy protected Facebook page, they may see information like your race, religion, or disability that could influence their hiring decision and put them at risk of getting sued for discrimination.
If anyone asks for your Facebook password, whether it’s your best friend or a prospective employer, the answer is always, “No.” If an employer won’t hire you because you won’t turn over your Facebook password, you don’t want to work for them anyway. A concerted effort from prospective employees pushing back against this question could be enough to make it stop.
UPDATE (3/26/2012): Facebook is warning users not to give their passwords to prospective employers.