Social Media Privacy: Can Your Employer
Ask for Your Password?

Apr / 20 15

Social Media Privacy: Can Your Employer
Ask for Your Password?

Posted by ericwagner in Business, Jobs and Careers, Social Media

I recently published an article titled “How to Use Facebook to Land a Job” showing ways to leverage social media to get a job. Well, for some job-seekers their Facebook profile may have a greater impact on their job. Reports of employers asking for employee’s login credentials are popping up frequently.

There have even been legislative efforts to make it illegal for employers to access people’s private social media accounts. Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal stated he is busy drafting a bill to prevent employers from asking for passwords. This is the same reasons employers cannot use polygraph tests on job-seekers.

Previously job-seekers could set a few privacy settings and un-tag a few pictures to protect themselves. Now they may get asked to hand over their passwords. Some employers are even asking employees to give them a tour of their messages, photos, and profile to get around the privacy settings and they can claim it as voluntary. Many people don’t have the luxury of declining a request of their login information because the job market is tight right now.

Social Media PrivacyRobert Collins, who worked for Maryland Department of Corrections, was asked for his Facebook password by his then employer in 2010. He filed a complaint with the ACLU but has since left his job.
“I was shocked. I was mortified when they asked me for my username and password. So, he asked me for the username and password and then he began to log onto the account. So, as he continued to do what he did, I was asking him what he was looking for and what he was doing. Well, he said he was going through my messages, my wall, my friends list and my pictures to make sure that I was not gang-affiliated. But I felt violated, I felt disrespected, I felt that my privacy was invaded. But not only my privacy, the privacy of my friends and that of my family that didn’t ask for that.”

Though it may be wrong, only 7 of 2,680 prospective employees with the Maryland DOC were denied a position based on content from their Facebook profiles. This was one of the most notable cases and since then employers from law enforcement to college admissions interviewers have still asked for Facebook access.

Facebook’s Stance

Facebook has a strict policy against soliciting others passwords as well as accessing someone else’s account. Here is a quote from Facebook

“We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think it’s the right the thing to do. While we do not have any immediate plans to take legal action against any specific employers, we look forward to engaging with policy-makers and other stakeholders, to help better safeguard the privacy of our users.” 

Is College Next?

The University of North Carolina has put a policy in place that forces student athletes to become “friends” with one of their coaches. This supposedly will allow them to constantly monitor their athletes social media lives and discourage rash behavior.

UNC’s actions are not unwarranted as former football player Marvin Austin posted online about his expensive purchases while still a student. This brought on an investigation by the NCAA. This action has now brought attention to their university privacy policy.

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Image credits: Stuart Miles (www.freedigitalphotos.net)

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Written by Eric Wagner

Eric is a online marketer and search engine optimization specialist (SEO). In his free time, Eric enjoys exercise, motorcycles, technology, and spending time with family and friends. Connect with him on Google+
Website: http://www.ericwagner.org/about/

2 Comments for Social Media Privacy: Can Your Employer
Ask for Your Password?

Kim DeFranco Reply

It is such a huge overstep. In fact, Maryland recently became the first state to outlaw the practice of having to turn passwords over to employers.

Eric Wagner Reply

@Kim – I wonder how many other states will follow.

I’m assuming that the law you mention only refers to personal passwords, and not corporate accounts created by individuals (like company Twitter profiles). I’ll have to take a look at it.


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