Potential Employers Infringe on Facebook Privacy Policies
Whether you are a college student, recent graduate looking for work, a new hire into the work force, or even a veteran employee working for anyone other than yourself, you better watch out when it comes to Facebook. If you are wondering why, here's the reason. Big brother is watching and in this case "big brother" refers to your current or prospective employer.
In fact, a recent study showed that 75 percent of college students have ruined their chances of getting a particular job due to unacceptable content found on their Facebook pages. In addition, many people have lost their jobs because of what they have posted on Facebook and other social networking websites.
In the past few weeks, Facebook privacy policies have really been under the microscope, as more and more employers are asking employees to divulge their Facebook username and password information. Even those just starting out in the world of work are being bombarded with the Facebook account inquiries as early as their very first job interview. This could very well be a constitutional issue of privacy. That is why in late March, two senators asked for an investigation of the practice of employers asking for Facebook account access.
Charles Schumer, from New York and Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut are Democratic senators who believe that employers are violating federal law when demanding access to Facebook account information from current or prospective employees. The senators are drafting a bill about this and have also asked Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct an investigation because they believe that federal laws, such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Stored Communications Act, may be in violation when employers are asking for Facebook passwords during job interviews.
This whole idea seems ludicrous. Why should employers be able to cross the line between one's personal life and professional life? For example, employers are not allowed to access your private phone conversations. So why should they be allowed to access your social media account? It has even been likened to a prospective employer sneaking into the home of an applicant and searching through his or her bedroom.
The current problem with social media websites such as Facebook is that the line between public and private becomes very blurry. Although you can choose your own privacy settings, sometimes that is not enough. In the last few years Facebook has claimed that their privacy policies have been continually upgraded and strengthened. Even though you supposedly choose who you want to be friends with and who can and can't view your information there are ways around it.
Your Facebook connections may be even more intertwined than you realize. If you look closely enough, you could likely find some random connection between your friends and relatives that you didn't even know existed. For example, if the friend of a friend works for a certain company to which you are applying for a job, they could just happen to see a questionable posting and share it with the boss, even though you never intended to share it with either of those people.
Social network services provide an extensive database that lists a person's name, address, current location, religion, relatives, friends, and current relationship status. Most social network activists continually update this information for the world to see. Social media has even become a way for US Government and CIA to watch over the citizens of our country. The scariest thing is that once you have put something on the Internet, even if you later delete it, your digital footprint stays there forever.
Perhaps employers are having more trouble finding their way around Facebook privacy settings than they did in the past. Maybe that is why they are directly asking employees for their login and passwords. So, what is Facebook doing in response? Facebook issued a statement saying that their customers should never be forced to share their private information, including their username and password, with anyone in order to obtain a job.
Erin Egan, the Chief Privacy Officer for Facebook says, "In recent months, we've seen a distressing increase in reports of employers or others seeking to gain inappropriate access to people's Facebook profiles or private information. This practice undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user's friends. It also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability." Facebook indicated that, if needed, they would initiate legal action to protect the privacy and security of their users.
Whether or not the lawmakers will end up passing legislation saying that employers cannot ask for your Facebook account information has yet to be decided. The senate will not be back in session until April 16. However, moving forward, it will be up to you to use the Internet and social media in a way that does not come back to haunt you or threaten your future employment opportunities.