Recently, people have been filling out job applications and interviewing for positions only to find out that employers are requesting their Facebook usernames and passwords. Although using Facebook to do a little research on future employees is nothing new, this issue has become quite controversial. Basically, requesting someone’s Facebook password takes “background research” to a new level.
More than anything, people want to keep their private/personal activities separate from their professional lives. And employers are at an all-time low, judging employees and interviewees by what they do in their free time instead of what they can bring to a company.
But is this an invasion of privacy? Well, that’s the way we see it, but most likely, the courts will decide. In recent weeks, there have been news reports about an employee who was fired for not providing her Facebook password after refusing to take down a wall post. This will more than likely end up in court in front of a judge who has no precedent to follow. Just last week, the House of Representatives considered a proposal that would prevent employers from requesting Facebook passwords. House Democrats introduced legislation as a possible amendment to the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act. The act would have allowed the FCC to intervene whenever job candidates are asked for Facebook passwords or other confidential information. The act didn’t pass, but it’s likely Congress will have to step in soon.
Besides the possibility of pissing people off, employers should know there are other risks in frantically searching Facebook pages of employees or job candidates. First, if employers don’t do it consistently, they are at risk of legal action by a candidate who may be a part of a protected class. Second, employers who search current employee social media pages are considered by the National Labor Relations Board to be conducting “undue surveillance.” This is just unnecessary and in a sense, disrespectful.
The world of social media has become a large part of the way people interact with each other. In turn, many lawsuits involving social media and the workplace are popping up everywhere. Eventually, all companies will have to have set rules about gathering information on employees and job applicants as well as some regulations on the use of social media.
The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.