Should Employers Have Access to Your Facebook Account?

Posted: March 27, 2012 in Current Events, politics

Prospective employers are increasingly asking for your Facebook and Email passwords during hiring interviews.  Sometimes they just ask you to log in during the interview so they can take a look around.  I feel that this is a serious invasion of privacy and should be prohibited by law.

Employers have every right to search the Internet for any public information about possible or existing employees.  If employees have a blog like this one, they have every right to access and read it.  They have a right to check public sites like the BBB or even to ask for a police check.  With regards to workplace computers, I feel they have a right to do just about anything they want, including having spyware on the computers to monitor employee activity (as long as employees are aware that it exists).

The invasion of an employee’s personal space, however, is a totally different matter.  Demanding access to a person’s Facebook page is akin to demanding their house keys and the right to come into your home and look around in your cupboards and drawers.  It’s similar to hiring, for no good reason, a private investigator to follow you and report on your activities.  It’s like asking to see your bank or credit card statements.  Demanding access to your e-mail is like demanding the right to rifle through your mailbox and open your mail.  I don’t then there are too many people who would put up with that, so why should people be expected to suffer such indignation in the cyber world.

Some may say that if you have nothing to fear you should not object.  I do agree with that to an extent, hence the things that I feel are reasonable requests which I listed above.  However, even if you have nothing to hide, having someone enter your home and demand, without any reason, to freely look around and to read your mail, I think most people would feel violated and that the person demanding these rights had gone beyond any reasonable requests.  Invasion of Facebook accounts and emails is no different from that.

What could the employer hope to find out?  That you sent an uncomplimentary message about a boss privately to a friend or co-worker?  Are they then also entitled to eavesdrop on your conversations if you go to a bar for a drink after work?  Might they want to know if you visited a local gun club site and some point, and then jump to the paranoid conclusion that you’ll come to work and shoot everyone if you have a bad day?  Or they might jump to all kinds of other conclusions based on your casual “likes” or comments to friends.

Affiliations and comments that are public or that show up in legitimate legal searches are relevant to an employer.  If you have a public association with a white supremacist group, that might be important information to an employer as it may reflect on their business and have an impact on clients.  “Liking” conservative or liberal causes, gay rights sites or Justin Bieber is no business of an employer.

An employee would have just as much right to request a similar invasion of the employer’s accounts, fearing perhaps that the employer making such a request may belong to some sort of neo-Nazi organization.  Such requests should be illegal and should result in a fine or consequence serious enough that threatening whistle blowers with loss of job would not be a factor.  If a $50 000 fine were to accompany such a request, the employer would think twice about even proposing it.  (The problem, of course, would be for the employee to prove it.)

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