The Price of Privacy: Are Facebook Passwords Fair Game?


First, I just want to say a big THANK YOU to my new followers – it’s so great to be connecting with other bloggers and I love all of your tweets, emails, comments, etc.  Y’all are truly the best.

Also, I’m looking for new faces to feature in the Fearless Post-Collegiate interview series.  Drop me an email at postcollegiateblog [at] gmail [dot] com and tell me a little about yourself and we’ll go from there.  I’m looking for anyone of any age and any background whose willing to share a little bit about their life, their triumphs and challenges in post-collegiate living, and their future ambitions, whatever they may be.

On to the topic of the week – and it’s a doozy:  how much privacy is a job seeker afforded these days?  As the Internet has been buzzing about the practice of requesting Facebook passwords from job seekers, it’s been interesting to see the reactions ranging from “HELL NO, HANDS OFF MY PRIVATE INFORMATION” to “If you really need a job, you’ll do anything.”

It’s a tricky issue – I tend to believe that you have to stand behind what you say, which includes what you say on the Internet.  If you have information that is shared publicly, you have to accept the reality that people (including potential employers – and your mother!) will see it.  This is why private accounts were invented – to allow you to share information that you choose with the people that you choose.  It’s also why many college career centers are encouraging young graduates to be smart about their Internet presence – Google yourself to see if anything unsavory can be found, keep personal information private, and develop a professional persona that will satisfy a future employer.

But are there legal grounds to request your password?  It’s legally within your right as a job seeker to refuse but are you jeopardizing your chance at a job?  That seems to be the concern most heavily raised on Twitter and blogs in the last day or two – if you’re desperate to find the right job, are you willing to sacrifice a little personal freedom, even temporarily?  This has never happened to me in a job interview ever but if the request ever came up, I would politely refuse and insist that I would not want to compromise my personal information.  As it’s been oft-quoted, giving up a password to a social site like Facebook is akin to turning over the keys to your house – you just shouldn’t do it.

It’s hard to be unemployed and/or job hunting right now.  The economy is still slow-growing in many areas and the market feels saturated with over-educated, under-employed, talented candidates.  But this doesn’t give employers the right to force potential employees to give up any semblance of a private life.  Just as the Internet generation is learning the repercussions of sharing information on-line and how to do so effectively and professionally, employers and head-hunters have to realize that with a global shift to virtual living that the traditional bounds of the employer/employee relationship still exist in a digital world.  And as one great commenter says on The Takeaway, unless they’re willing to give up their passwords, why should you?

5 thoughts on “The Price of Privacy: Are Facebook Passwords Fair Game?

    • Like I said a bit in the post, I think most young Internet users are savvy enough to learn that what you put on the Internet publicly will eventually be seen, so you should exercise caution. It’s the same principle of being careful what you say – you never know what gets repeated or twisted around.

      At the same time, if you have a private, password-protected site where you share information with people who have explicit access to what you’re saying (like Facebook or Twitter or a password-protected blog), no one has the right to see that unless you give it to them or there’s a subpoena. This definitely excludes employers – simple as that!

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