Log-in demand crosses line

For the London Free Press - April 4, 2011 Read this on Canoe

Employers who want applicants' social media log-ins to check them out are going too far

It not unusual for employers to conduct Google searches on prospective employees or check their public social media feeds. But prospective employer's requests for job applicants' social media log-in IDs and passwords crosses the line.

Unfortunately, some people have felt no choice but to comply given the unequal bargaining power between the parties and their need to obtain or keep a job.

The British Columbia New Democratic Party has required candidates to reveal their social media IDs and passwords so the party can search for potentially embarrassing material. So far, all the candidates have apparently complied, except for one.

In Maryland, the department business law of public safety and correctional services requested applicants' social media information as a standard part of its hiring and recertification process. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has requested that the department change its policy.

In Bozeman, Mont., the city instituted a policy requiring job applicants to provide their social media log-in information. This prompted widespread criticism that resulted in the city promptly abandoning the policy.

There is a fine line between being well-informed about employees and potential employees and invading an individual's privacy. Asking for social media log-ins clearly crosses that line.

For many social media users, Facebook messaging is replacing their telephone calls, e-mails and meetings. An employer asking for access to these messages is the practical equivalent of asking if it can tap phones, monitor e-mails or listen in on conversations.

These are violations of reasonable expectations of privacy. Communications via social media should not be treated differently. With many social media sites, giving out your log-in ID and password is a violation of their terms of use.

Having someone's IDs and passwords means you can do anything on that site the individual can do. One has to wonder what else those entities demanding passwords do with personal information.

An employer may learn about such things as applicants' religious views or disabilities on which they're not permitted to base hiring decisions. If the candidate is not hired, this could lead to a discrimination claim.