Facebook hits out against employers who ask for passwords

23 Mar 2012

Facebook has spoken out against employers who ask for job applicants’ Facebook passwords, making it a violation of its statement of rights and responsibilities. A US Senator is also drafting a bill to make the practice illegal.

Earlier this week, a report from the Associated Press said some job seekers in the US had been asked for usernames and passwords to their social networks in order gain access to their personal information.

Other companies have asked users to friend them in order to allow them to check what they post on Facebook when judging if they’re suitable for a role.

This drew strong criticism and it seems Facebook itself is opposed to the practice of recruiters requesting usernames and passwords.

In a blog post, Erin Egan, chief privacy officer of policy at Facebook, said the practice ‘undermines the privacy expectations and the security’ of the user and their friends. Egan said Facebook users should never have to share their password with anyone else.

“As a user, you shouldn’t be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job,” said Egan. 

“And as the friend of a user, you shouldn’t have to worry that your private information or communications will be revealed to someone you don’t know and didn’t intend to share with just because that user is looking for a job,” she said.

Egan said that as a result, Facebook has made it a violation of its statement of rights and responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password.

Risks for the employer

Egan also pointed out that the job applicant and his or her friends weren’t the only ones at risk – the employers could expose themselves to unexpected legal liabilities.

“If an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (eg, over a certain age, etc) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don’t hire that person,” she said.

She also pointed out that employers also may not have proper policies and training on how to handle private information, making the move even riskier. She said the employer may be liable for the protection of information seen based on what it is, for example, if the information suggests the applicant has committed a crime.


A US Senator is also drafting legislation to make the practice of employers asking for social network login details illegal. Senator Richard Blumenthal said the act was an ‘unreasonable invasion of privacy.’ He said the bill would be ready ‘in the very near future’

The reports reflected the growing practice of recruiters checking social networking profiles when interviewing job applicants. A recent survey found that one in five employers have rejected an applicant in the past over their social media profile.

Many users are becoming uncomfortable with recruiters seeking out their Facebook profiles, which are used more for their personal lives rather than their professional lives. As a result, users often have stricter privacy measures on their Facebook profiles, meaning only friends can see their information which has driven these recruiters to ask for their passwords.

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