The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

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Employers defy personal boundaries by asking for passwords

By Josh Haywood

Writer

 

Resume, check; references, check; Facebook password, I don’t think so. Recently there has been a rash of news stories about employers asking potential and current employees for their Facebook password so that they can “check out who they really are.” While this practice is not widespread, the idea of your future employer asking you to hand over your login information seems rather troubling to me. If the practice is not curtailed, it could set a legal precedent in what amount of privacy is expected by employees.  Currently there are no federal laws that can limit this practice. This seems to be a blatant disregard of privacy that should be stopped before it escalates any further.

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The problem of employers gaining access to people’s private data on their Facebook page didn’t work its way into the news until it was released that the Maryland Department of Corrections had ask over some 2,000 applicants their password to check for “gang affiliation.” Out of all of the applicants only seven were denied the job due to what they had on their accounts. In response to this Maryland became the first state to pass a law that makes such requests illegal: laws similar to this are being talked about in California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Massachusetts. Some legal experts believe that this is in violation of the Equal Employment and Opportunity statues that ban employers from asking for employee information based upon issues of race, sexuality, religion, and etc. This is another issue of paper laws falling behind with the rise of the digital age. Currently Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are communicating with Attorney General Eric Holder to have the Justice Department to investigate the legality of this employment practice.

How far can employers reach into an employee’s life? If this practice is not curtailed I could easily see it leading to employers forcing you to be Facebook friends with them so they can monitor your behavior 24/7. It sounds like an old-school Soviet Union movie; you’re driving down the road and reach a checkpoint, “Show us your papers, Comrade, or face the consequences.” Big Brother, who in this case is your boss, does not need to know where I checked in last weekend or what I like to do in my free time. This Orwellian intrusion of privacy is unwarranted because it distorts the line that separates work and home. What you do in your own home and free time is nobody’s business; this right should be extended to what you do in the digital world as well. I personally deleted my Facebook about two months ago; I recently made a new one because I thought I wanted to look at pictures, but I rarely use it even for that. I don’t know which is more like stalking, actual Facebook creeping or the fact the employers want to creep on your raw profile. I really think that something should be done about this practice on the federal level so that each state would not have to create their own unique laws.

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  • W

    William AdamsApr 21, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    While the law on this practice remains unsettled, prospective employees should prepare themselves to professionally respond to such a request during the interview process. I have addressed this issue from that perspective – your readers may be interested in reading an article that I posted at How to Handle A Prospective Employer’s Request for Your Facebook User Name and Password.

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