Communion Of Dreams

Privacy: R.I.P.

This is getting a bit of news attention, so it isn’t completely normalized in society yet, but I think that is just a matter of time:

Could employers begin asking for Facebook passwords on applications?

For all the good it can do, social networking also has its share of downsides. Putting personal information of any kind on the internet raises plenty of privacy concerns on its own, and handing over your username and password can be like giving away the keys to your very identity. But if you’re in the process of seeking new employment, that may be exactly what you’ll have to do.

The image below is a snapshot of an application from North Carolina for a clerical position at a police department. One of the required pieces of information is a disclosure of any social networking accounts, along with the username and password to access them.

That was last November 30. This was yesterday:

Govt. agencies, colleges demand applicants’ Facebook passwords

* * *

In Maryland, job seekers applying to the state’s Department of Corrections have been asked during interviews to log into their accounts and let an interviewer watch while the potential employee clicks through wall posts, friends, photos and anything else that might be found behind the privacy wall.

Previously, applicants were asked to surrender their user name and password, but a complaint from the ACLU stopped that practice last year. While submitting to a Facebook review is voluntary, virtually all applicants agree to it out of a desire to score well in the interview, according Maryland ACLU legislative director Melissa Coretz Goemann.

Student-athletes in colleges around the country also are finding out they can no longer maintain privacy in Facebook communications because schools are requiring them to “friend” a coach or compliance officer, giving that person access to their “friends-only” posts. Schools are also turning to social media monitoring companies with names like UDilligence and Varsity Monitor for software packages that automate the task. The programs offer a “reputation scoreboard” to coaches and send “threat level” warnings about individual athletes to compliance officers.

Given how many people increasingly rely on social media outlets such as Facebook or Twiter for routine communications, this is just a very small step from requiring access to email.


Look how commonplace drug-testing policies have become in schools and workplaces. That started out as being only required for sensitive jobs or in the case of some kind of accident/criminal event. It’s to the point now where such testing is being required for access to welfare programs, and is considered absolutely routine and non-controversial in many workplaces.

Or think about the widespread use of surveillance cameras. Again, they were initially used only in high-security situations. Then they became commonplace in banks. Then to monitor intersections. Then for general use in public areas which were supposedly “high crime.” Then just generally, to the point where in many cities you’re under constant observation, and can be tracked from your home to just about anywhere you go.

Then there was the recent news that the FBI was trying to recover all of their 3,000 GPS units used to track “suspects” under their warrantless monitoring of vehicles. Police Drones. Echelon. Routine searches of cell phones. And God help you if you want to cross the border. Or even just travel here inside the US.

Yeah, tell me again how it’s far-fetched to think that employers will routinely demand access to not only your social media accounts but to your email and other communications.

Jim Downey

(Prompted by MeFi, but of course this isn’t a new topic for me.)


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

It will make a very good court case one day if somebody gets sufficiently pissed off.

Comment by Catana

Agreed. On the MeFi link at the bottom, there’s also a discussion about how you could use this as a ‘poison pill’ – putting all sorts of stuff about your religious beliefs or sexual orientation or age on your Facebook page. When said business insists on access to your account and subsequently doesn’t hire you, you sue for damages because they did so on the basis of one of these categories.

Comment by James Downey

You could really screw with a company that way. As long as you really didn’t want the job. But the way things have been going, I wonder if there will come a time when you not only have to give a potential employer access to your accounts, not having a Facebook or Google+ page at all could bias an interviewer against you.

Comment by Catana

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