Trading Privacy for Employability: Job Candidates Increasingly Asked to Provide Facebook Logins

April 17th, 2012 by Gabrielle Woodard

In the fall of 2003, Mark Zuckerberg and a few friends created a simple social website to connect better with friends and classmates at Harvard University.  Little did he know that this social website would become the lodestar of today’s social networking — not just allowing for connections with school friends and classmates, but outside friends, families, and people across the world.  The term “friend me” or “Facebook me” is soon to be defined in Merriam Webster’s Dictionary:

job candidates facebook

– friend me (f’rend mē): “to give someone access to your profile, wall posts,  information, and photos… including  those pictures taken of you drunk last weekend.”

But how many friends should we have? How many people should we allow to view our profile? Recently, businesses across America are requiring more and more job candidates to provide their Facebook username and password during interviews for employment.  These corporate executives  want to do more than a little digging into these candidate’s personal lives before saying “you’re hired.” You know — just to make sure they don’t belong to a cult, or certain fraternity, or social group, or political party, or gang.  Totally legal right?  But why stop here?  In addition to providing Facebook logins, should these candidates just hand over the keys to their home and give these companies copies of their bank statements and complete medical histories?

Whatever happened to references from previous jobs?  When a job candidate gives a potential employer a list of references, does it give them the liberty to call and ask all the personal and professional questions needed?  Yes, of course. But who needs potentially inaccurate or hard-to-get-a-hold-of references when we have the vast slew of information available in Facebook… right?

According to an August 2011 study by The Atlantic , 45% of employers use social networking sites to screen potential employees, with 29% using Facebook specifically and 26% using Linkedin.  Funny how the statistics are higher for a social site rather than a professional site.

Many employers argue that people interact more on social networks rather than in real life, and viewing their profile will give them a better idea of what kind of person the applicant is outside the interview.  Although this statement may be true, Facebook officials are encouraging job candidates to hold their ground and withhold all private information from potential employers. Even The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has spoken out saying “People are entitled to their private lives.”

In an economy where getting a job is challenging enough, should we just allow businesses to have access to all aspects of our lives, even the ones that aren’t business related?  Or should employers be happy reviewing our resumes, our talents, attributes, and our contributions to their company, and leaving this privacy violation out of it?