Stop Asking for Candidate Facebook Passwords… (Just In Case You Actually Were)

Jason Pankow Bad HR, Interviewing, Jason Pankow, Social Media, Social Media and Talent

Attention all employers!  If you live in the states of California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey or, most recently, my home state of Washington… you are no longer allowed to ask employees or candidates for their Facebook passwords.

However, if you are in one of the other 43 states, you are safe!  While the US House of Representatives considered outlawing the practice of asking for social network passwords, it did not make it through the vote.

Great news!  That means that we, the employers of the world, can continues playing Big Brother to…wait…hold on…

Who the heck is actually doing this?

Now, the question could be asked (in fact it is by @TheNewsChick, my morning wake up call, in her post) if this is really a problem.  Is this actually something that is happening over and over again?  Or is it simply something that happened to one person that sent a state legislature all in a tizzy to actually find something to accomplish during their session.

But, it’s not just Washington.  Other states are passing similar legislation.  When something makes it to the House of Representatives, one has to assume that it’s become more prevalent than we thought.  There have to be more instances of employees and/or candidates being asked for passwords.

Please tell me that I am not the only one that thinks this is an insane practice.  How can any employer justify this?

Don’t misunderstand.  I am not saying Facebook posts can’t be held against you.  We at FOT have posted many times on how candidates and employees need to be smart about what they post on their pages.  I don’t care how pissed someone gets at their boss.  Keep the complaining to your friend over beers.  If you make it public for the world to see, your taking a big risk.  In fact, Huffington Post has a great list of idiotic posts by employees. I have no sympathies for these newly unemployed social butterflies.

However, when someone is fired, it is due to a public post.  Or, a post that was visible to their employer.  All Facebook users have the option to keep their profile from being viewed by the public.  They also have the option to not friend their boss or coworkers, should they choose to keep their personal life private.  To ask them for their password is a violation of that privacy.  The disadvantages to this kind of policy far outweigh the advantages.

For every employee you catch badmouthing, or every time you catch someone on vacation when they’re using sick leave, or for every less-than-PC comment you lot, you show hundreds of employees, candidates and customers that you don’t value privacy.

You remember how everyone got their knickers in a bunch over the US spying on our cell phones and emails?  Yeah…this is the same thing.

So to the 15 or so people across the country that are asking candidates or employees to hand out Facebook passwords, knock it off.  Let them keep their privacy.  Stick to what you can find through public channels.