If you haven’t caught it yet, you probably will.  Much has been written in the last couple weeks about companies asking job candidates for their Facebook or other social media login data.  Their explanation is simply this information is one component of candidate screening.  In some cases preexisting employees are being asked by their employers for the same.  Again, the employer claim is simply this information is one component of ongoing employee evaluation.

I totally understand the need to use every possible resource to assess a job candidate.  Performing due diligence before you bring someone on the payroll is in everyone’s best interests.

Nevertheless, certain standards of decorum and civility must never be ignored.  The job candidate still has a right to privacy.  He or she should still be treated with dignity and respect.

Because the real world is the virtual world and the virtual world is the real world, whatever the job candidate puts out there in the online public domain is fair game for any current or prospective employer.  Have at it.  But the key word there is “public.”  Companies should not be asking people for their personal login data.  There is no excuse for that.  Login data is the sacred key that unlocks the door to the candidate’s entire online life.

Thankfully, Facebook has responded by further clarifying its user agreement to protect against these kinds of violations.  Erin Egan, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, has stated, “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 shutting down applications that abuse their privileges.”

Abusers, be warned!

I am amused and impressed by some of the creative, thoughtful responses I have come across in the online debate.  One person said he would write down his Facebook ID and password, fold the paper in half, and then slide it across the table to the interviewer.  Before releasing his finger from the paper, he would look the interviewer in the eye and ask, “May I now have your Facebook ID and password?”

Another person had a brilliant, ironic, and stinging comeback: “I would, but it violates my Facebook user agreement.  Certainly an HR manager such as yourself can understand my wanting to follow the rules.”

Another response could be, “If I give you my login data, you would have access to information that answers questions that are illegal to ask in a job interview.  I’m sure you wouldn’t want that to happen.”

I think any company that engages in this unsavory practice will be exposing itself to tremendous legal liability.  Any job candidate facing this sort of inquiry should immediately withdraw from the interview process.  Why would you want to work for a company that is willing to violate your privacy?  You have to question that organization’s ethics.

It will be interesting to see where this goes.  I think the fight hasn’t ended.  Once again we see that companies evaluating job candidates must tread very carefully on exactly where they draw the line between what is fair game and what is not.  Drawing that line will become even more complicated as our online world evolves.


scrolling=”no” frameborder=”0″
style=”border:none; width:450px; height:80px”>

About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Tyco Integrated Security at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

Leave a Reply