Sunday, 25 March 2012

Password to Facebook

A recent, worrying trend has plagued some job-seekers: employers who demand that you give them your Facebook password, or that you log onto your Facebook account on their computer during the interview. Employers have stated, or implied, that applicants who fail to comply may not get the job. Existing employees have been pressured to comply with the invasion of privacy, for fear of not having their contract renewed.

So, why is this happening, and what can you do about it?

It is happening because employers are worried of potential embarrassment precipitated through employees posting objectionable or immature content on Facebook, whilst employed at the company. It is also another way for companies to get the measure of employees, and ascertain what kind of person they really are. In this aspect, it is related to the now-common Google searches and Facebook searches employers have been doing for years, as well as the contractual conditions introduced in many companies stipulating that you will not comment about company issues on social media.

Google searches, social media searches, and non-disclosure clauses are all well and fine; a reality of the connected world we live in. However, forcing employees to give employers the ability to view their private Facebook profiles, and see all their private information; is unethical and a violation of privacy. People have a right to enjoy private forums in which to communicate with family and friends, without having corporate and governmental fingers intruding in. There is a reason why people have the ability to decide how much and what can be seen on their public profile.

The old maxim that 'if you are doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear' is profoundly wrong here, even more so than usual. Everybody says or does certain things with friends and family, not illegal things, but things that would be embarrassing if shown to coworkers, or taken out of context. Letting corporations intrude into this realm would give them excessive control over the private lives, dialogues and thoughts of employees. It would truly create an oppressive environment, even after workers go home.

So what can you do? You can refuse. While it is not illegal for companies to ask you to do this (just wildly unethical), they cannot legally force you to. However, if they do fire you for not complying, there are no precedents for suing them. Of course, many people do not have the luxury to say no, as they cannot afford to be out of work for the amount of time it would take to find a new job; and they lack the resources or time to attempt a law suit.

Facebook has officially issued a statement on the matter, saying in strong words that employers should not do this, and advising users not to comply. In fact, it will soon be against the rules of use to share a password, and may result in account closure. We can only hope that Facebook comes through on its promise to work with lawmakers, some of whom are receptive, to render illegal such employer requests.

In the meantime, if you can, say no to requests to provide your personal password. Apply to a more ethical company instead. For many social media sites, you can create an account under a pseudonym, enabling you to use the application without managers being able to access it. Just claim you do not have an account. For Facebook, where pseudonyms are a violation of rules, perhaps you can make your account unsearchable to the public.

Of course, make sure that whatever the public can see, is professional.

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