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Employers ask for Facebook passwords

Would you trade your online privacy to get a job? Some employers want access to your nonpublic posts on Facebook.

By Giselle Smith Mar 8, 2012 1:28PM

Savvy Facebook users know how to manage their privacy settings to selectively share all of their posts with some friends and only some of them with others. But those privacy settings won't do much good if a potential employer -- or academic institution -- demands access to your social media accounts or even your passwords.


As unlikely -- and Big Brotherish -- as this sounds, it has actually happened to some employees and job applicants, as well as to student athletes at several colleges, Bob Sullivan of The Red Tape Chronicles wrote this week.


In late 2010, Maryland corrections officer Robert Collins told the American Civil Liberties Union that he was required to provide his Facebook login and password during a recertification interview, allowing an interviewer to read the posts on his account. Here's a TV news reports about his complaint: (Post continues below.)

His complaint led the Maryland Division of Correction to suspend the practice, but it now asks officers to voluntarily log on to their accounts and allow interviewers to watch, a practice called "shoulder surfing." Most applicants agree to it because they want to do well in their interviews, Maryland ACLU legislative director Melissa Coretz Goemann told Sullivan.


Universities monitor students

Student athletes at a number of universities aren't required to turn over their passwords, but must "friend" coaches or compliance officers. Sullivan added: 

Schools are also turning to social media monitoring companies with names like UDilligence and Varsity Monitor for software packages that automate the task. The programs offer a "reputation scoreboard" to coaches and send "threat level" warnings about individual athletes to compliance officers.

Searches of job or scholarship applicants' public Facebook presence are nothing new. For instance, one-quarter of privately funded scholarship providers surveyed by FastWeb and the National Scholarship Providers Association said they check students' public Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter posts, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.


However, attorney Bradley Shear told Sullivan that students' and employees' First Amendment rights are violated when they're expected to share information that's intended to be private:

"I can't believe some people think it's OK to do this," he said. "Maybe it's OK if you live in a totalitarian regime, but we still have a Constitution to protect us. It's not a far leap from reading people's Facebook posts to reading their email. ... As a society, where are we going to draw the line?"

A bill introduced in the Illinois legislature would ban employers from requesting that job applicants submit their social media usernames or passwords, says The Huffington Post.


Until such a line is drawn, it makes sense to heed the advice Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of and, offered in the Chronicle: Review your Facebook page and delete any posts or photos that show immature or illegal activity. Delete anything that others have posted on your wall that doesn't reflect well on you.


It's also a good idea to remember, as Kayla Webley writes in Time, "it's still the Internet, where nothing is ever truly private."


More on MSN Money:

Mar 9, 2012 3:59PM

A Facebook password not only gives someone access to information about you, but access to other people's pages that under normal circumstances would not be visible, let alone conversations pertaining to person's other than yourself - this is no one else's business but between you and that person. To say nothing of misinterpretations on behalf of the employer in regards to anything found. The potential for misuse is staggering.

You want my social media passwords? Fine, then I want the passwords of all my potential supervisors... I want to know who I'm going to be taking my orders from and whether I want to work underneath them.

What's next, I have to let them wire-tap my phones? 
Mar 9, 2012 9:01PM

This is a clear violation of the right to privacy that we as US citizens are afforded.  Beyond the fact that this is happening, I find it even more appalling that an employer or university would actually think this is ok to do.


Supposedly, the Dept. of Corrections was asking to see employer's FB pages for potential gang links as I guess gang members have been trying to get jobs there to subvert the system, help out inmates, etc.  That's what a background investigation is for, morons. Guess you'd better go earn a paycheck instead of taking the easy route and actually do some investigating!


Cause, believe you me, it would be a cold day in hell before you got my username and password! 

Mar 20, 2012 5:32PM

While I do think that privacy is a quaint term now (I work in marketing), I do not, nor will I ever have a Facebook account or anything like it.  Actually, I don't care that you had raisin bran for breakast and that the dog has diarrhea again.


What next?  Body cavity searches?  C'mon!  Let's just put the thought reading microchip in all of our foreheads and get this over with.  Scanning us will be so much quicker and more efficient.

Mar 26, 2012 1:03PM

This is one for the list makers.  According to L. Vincent Poupard; a contributor to regarding consumer affairs, there is apparently no need to inform your congressman.  Mr. Poupard’s succinct solution that the Attorney General, Eric Holder, takes the stance that the password is akin to your bank PIN; to which employees have no legal access,  seems to omit our representatives from the argument.  Voting may not be necessary but suddenly adding to your grocery shopping list takes on a new dimension.


Mar 21, 2012 12:43PM
Sharing your Facebook password is a copyright violation. You don't own the copyright to your Facebook friends posts. They have not given you a license to share their copyrighted works with your employer. Sharing your Facebook password is the same as sharing your Netflix password.
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