Facebook’s chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, announced last Friday that Facebook will fight to stop employers from requesting access to their potential employees’ otherwise private accounts.
If you haven’t heard the news, this announcement follows reports that potential employers are asking for access to applicants’ Facebook accounts — either asking them for their usernames and passwords or asking them to log into their accounts during their interview. Not only is this invasion of privacy happening in the workplace, some universities require their student athletes to “friend” a coach or someone of the like who can keep tabs on them through their Facebook accounts, even if those accounts are not public.
Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities clearly states that sharing or soliciting a Facebook password is prohibited.
“This practice undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends,” Egan wrote on the Facebook Privacy blog. “It also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability.”
Egan also states that among the risks to employers, they will come across information such as age or sexual orientation that could open them up to claims of discrimination if the applicant doesn’t get the job. Employers may also become responsible for discovering any possible information that may suggest criminal activity while tracking private profiles.
Washington D.C., lawyer, Bradley Shear, told MSNBC earlier this month that demands for access to private social media content are a violation of the First Amendment.
“I can’t believe some people think it’s OK to do this,” he told the publication. “Maybe it’s OK if you live in a totalitarian regime, but we still have a Constitution to protect us. It’s not a far leap from reading people’s Facebook posts to reading their email. … As a society, where are we going to draw the line?”
Facebook’s statement suggests that the network is willing to help draw that line — even if that requires legal action.
“We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges.”
Do you think employers and school officials should be allowed to request your private information on Facebook?