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Are Your Passwords Required For Employment?

Growing Trend

There has been a growing trend among employers to ask job applicants for their social networking usernames and passwords during the job interview. This issue first came to my attention back in April when I read an article about Justin Bassett, a statistician,  withdrawing his job application when, during the interview, the interviewer asked him to hand over his Facebook username and password. Ultimately Justin ended the interview and passed on the job opportunity.

Asking for passwords isn’t just striking a nerve with job applicants, Facebook has warned employers that asking job applicants for their passwords violates Facebook’s terms of services and could potentially open the requesting company up to discrimination lawsuits.

 

Federal Laws

In March of 2012, two senators asked the Attorney General to look into the legality of employers asking for your passwords. Unfortunately, the House voted against adding an amendment to the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act of 2012 that would have prevented employers from requesting this information.

However, on May 9th, 2012 the Password Protection Act (HR 5684), which would make it illegal for employers to ask you for your user names and passwords, was filed.  HR 5684 is currently in Committee and waiting to  be passed to the House of Representatives.

 

Individual State Laws

In addition to the bill  at the federal level, individual states have taken action to protect job seekers.

  • Maryland – A bill has been passed that prohibits employers from asking for social media user names and passwords. It takes effect on October 1st.
  • California – Similar to Maryland, California has also introduced a bill that would prevent employers from accessing your user name and password.
  • Massachusetts – Massachusetts has also introduced a social media bill.
  • Michigan – Michigan’s social media bill was introduced on March 29th 2012 by Aric Nesbitt.
  • Illinois – Illinois has also introduced and passed a social media bill that takes effect on January 1st, 2013.

 

Illinois Law

Illinois law makers have also taken action against employers seeking to obtain your user names and passwords for social media sites. The Right To Privacy – Social Net (HB3782) bill has passed both the House and Senate and has been sent to the Governor to be signed.

If HB3782 is signed into law by Governor Quinn, it will be illegal for any employer or potential employer to ask for passwords or demand access to your personal social networking profiles.

Bill HB3782 was officially passed by Governor Quinn on August 1st, 2012.

 

Other Legal Implications

It is also important to take into consideration other laws that may prevent you from legally giving full access to employers asking for your social media account passwords. Doctors, lawyers, financial planners and anyone dealing with private client information may be legally prohibited from sharing their account information.

As an example, as a small business owner I manage the social media presence of several businesses. For me to allow an employer access to my Facebook account could violate my client’s privacy. The same would be true for anyone that uses social media sites to interact with clients. Your clients have a reasonable expectation of information remaining private between the two parties.

 

What Should You Do?

While there is no clear-cut answer on what you should do if you are confronted with the “Facebook password” question, there are certain actions you can take to alleviate employers concerns without giving them access to your accounts.

Try and identify what the employers concerns are with social media accounts. You may be able to provide them with what they are looking for without giving up your passwords. For example, their concerns may be soothed if you have all of your Facebook content visible to the general public temporarily.

Another issue for the employer may be that they have had issues with employees posting content that damages the companies reputation. This concern could be smoothed over by offering to be bound by a non-disparagement clause in your employment contract.

There are dozens of reasons why an employer may feel it is necessary to have access to your social media accounts during an interview. If you are unwilling to allow an employer full access to your social accounts, identifying and alleviating the employers fears is a hurdle you will need to overcome.

Until the dust settles with the pending laws, your answer to the “Facebook password” question will have to depend on your personal situation and what you are comfortable with. If you have been out of work for an extended duration (the average duration of unemployment is 39.9 weeks as of June 2012), allowing a potential employer to access your social media accounts may be acceptable if it means you are getting the job.

 

Have You Been Asked?

Has an employer ever asked you for one of your social media passwords? If so, what what your response? If not, have you thought about what you will do if it happens? Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts!

 

HR Infographic on Social Media


Featured By: OSHA Safety Training

 

Disclaimer:
I am not an attorney and no part of this article should be taken as legal advice. If you are having legal issues with discrimination or employment law, consult professional legal council.

Sources:
Job seekers getting asked for Facebook passwords – Yahoo.com
Facebook warns employers: don’t ask for passwords – Yahoo.com
Senators Question Employer Requests for Facebook Passwords – Nytimes.com
House votes down law to stop employers from asking for Facebook passwords – Neowin.net
Maryland becomes first state to prohibit employers from asking for Facebook logins – Washingtonpost.com
California Employers: hands off your employees’ Facebook password – Northerncaliforniaemploymentlawattorneys.com
Social Media Privacy Bills Around the Country – Faircompetitionlaw.com
Illinois General Assembly – Ilga.gov
Michigan Legislative Website – Legislature.mi.gov

About the Author

Rick Biederer is the owner and operator of www.FindIllinoisJobs.com.

Follow him on Google Plus

Comments (2)

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  1. Abe says:

    Yes, I have been asked for passwords. My reply was that they can request access to the business users. As all the online profiles are accessible by legal business entities. I note to them that requesting any passwords not only violates the users privacy but opens them users profile to sold passwords. I was asked about that issue. I noted that most human resources have a strong history of selling the profiles they build on applicants. I noted that in the past we have found that almost ALL “hacks” of a persons profile came by the sale of profile collected data. A common way almost all companies in the US and abroad make money. They trade and share your application data. That included passwords, and listed sites.

    I admit, I did not get the job, but later that same company (A Bank) had to make public that the network was compromised due to a users access-point. When traced (with the help of an insider) we learned the issue was the supervisor had a facebook account, in the account she included her work information and password lists (limited to herself, not a public page). But she applied to another company which sold her profile, which is how thousands of accesses were made to the banks network, and client and business data was copied and sold to inside traders. But the news only covered a hacked bank. The HR officer refused to comment on asking the password purpose, but we saw it was actually from a federal memo, and those passwords were being collected into a database. So legally the companies under the i-9 regulations can bring up the federal memo asking for access to social networks. But that becomes much the same as asking for social security numbers, when the law says they can only ask for a social, if you are filling out the tax forms when they legally hire you. without valid employment a business legally can NOT ask for a social security number. The password issue, is basically the same, the companies are trying to bypass the law.

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