Prospective employers typically ask job applicants for references. But in the age of the Internet, some want much more. In a chilling disregard for privacy rights, some companies are requiring job seekers to turn over their Facebook passwords during the hiring process.
And in a competitive market amid a sluggish economy, many job seekers may feel that they have no choice but to share access to personal information on the popular social media site. The disturbing practice violates a basic Internet principle: Never disclose your password.
The demand may be perfectly legal, though that’s questionable. It’s a total invasion of privacy that should be prohibited. Toward that end, some members of Congress have correctly asked the Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate whether the practice violates federal laws.
With access to a Facebook profile, an employer can review personal information such as a person’s age, gender, sexual orientation, and religion — statuses protected under employment law. Current law, however, may need updating, so Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) say they will propose whatever measures are needed to block employers from snooping on applicants by demanding access to their social-media passwords.
Meanwhile, Facebook has warned employers not to ask job applicants for the passwords to that site. The company threatened legal action for violating its policy against sharing passwords.
It is not surprising that employers would want to troll the Internet to check out job applicants. And no one should expect postings made in the public realm to be kept completely private. But requiring access to passwords and other information that is not publicly available should not be a condition of employment.