Facebook Passwords: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Apparently there’s a new-ish and troubling trend of employers asking job candidates to share their Facebook passwords. Savvy job hunters (and smart online citizens) are diligent about setting their privacy settings and controlling what information is public, and which stays private.  Some employers want to see what they are missing. Here’s why it’s an incredibly bad idea to open this particular can of digital worms.

Why employers shouldn’t ask

First of all, it’s a violation of Facebook’s terms of service to collect other users’ information without Facebook’s permission (which they have already explicitly stated that you don’t have).

More important, if a job seeker has done his or her due diligence about keeping certain information private, they’ve probably done it for a reason—if only because they don’t want to share their wedding photos or weekend plans with the masses.

If you, as a prospective employer pry into that secured space, then you might inadvertently discover that a candidate is a member of a protected class (based on religion, sexual orientation, race, disability, etc.). Any hiring decision you make based on that information can make you liable to legal action. And even if you know that information had no bearing in your decision, the job candidate might not believe you and take action anyway.

Why candidates shouldn’t tell

Technically, it’s a violation of Facebook’s terms of service to share your password, but we all know that’s not the real issue.

If employers ask for your social media login once, they’re implicity telling you that they don’t trust your “public” self and feel that they should have intimate knowledge of your private affairs. In very specialized cases, say, if you are seeking security clearance from the government, then that level of scrutiny is appropriate and necessary. But in most cases, you should be awfully troubled by an employer who needs that level of access to your private life.

If you think about it, a company that expects you to share your Facebook password is likely not the kind of company you’d want to work with. Do yourself a favor and politely end the interview after the question has been asked.

Why Innate will never ask (and will be disappointed if you tell)

At Innate, we will never ask for your private passwords. And sharing them shows an appalling lack of understanding of password security. (Frankly, we’d wonder what other information you’d be comfortable sharing with others.)  Are we going to check your public social media profiles? You bet we are. Because we would much rather see you demonstrate a good understanding of privacy settings—and good judgement about what kind of information to share publically—than ask for your personal information.

[Photo credit: Maria Elena, Flickr Creative Commons]

Lisa Crotty

Marketing Manager

Lisa is a Senior Optimization Specialist at Innate – her friends even teased that she A/B tested her name change. Lisa studied Philosophy of Science & Technology at Virginia Tech and is always asking why.

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