A potential sentence for those who do persist in asking for Facebook passwords - remove them from their current job and place them in one that requires asking, “Would you like fries with that?” It’ll be interesting to see whether the court of public opinion, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), state legislatures, or the federal government, orchestrate something against any employers that seek to ask prospective employees for their Facebook passwords. Or passwords to any of their personal accounts. Simple concepts like privacy and protection of freedom of speech come to mind.
"While we do not have any immediate plans to take legal action against any specific employers, we look forward to engaging with policymakers and other stakeholders, to help better safeguard the privacy of our users," said Facebook spokesperson Andrew Noyes.
The flip side of this is that this should serve as a reminder to have different passwords for different accounts. Numerous articles are “out there” about how to do this. Simple algorithms and/or mnemonic techniques can simplify this. People need to take an active role in protecting their privacy.
This should also serve as a reminder that people need to make use of all privacy settings that are available to them on social networking sites. People need to “Google” themselves to see what is publicly available, both text and pictures. Do you really want those pictures from junior year Spring Break to be tagged with your name on them floating around the internet?
Facebook's chief privacy of policy officer Erin Egan cautioned that if an employer discovers that a job applicant is a member of a protected group, the employer might open itself up to claims of discrimination if it does not hire that person.
"As a user, you shouldn't be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job," wrote Erin Egan. "And as the friend of a user, you shouldn't have to worry that your private information or communications will be revealed to someone you don't know and didn't intend to share with just because that user is looking for a job.
Senator Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut is writing a bill that would stop the practice of employers asking job applicants for their Facebook or other social media passwords. “These practices seem to be spreading, which is why federal law ought to address them. They go beyond the borders of individual states and call for a national solution,” said Blumenthal,
California State Senator Leland Yee plans to amend an existing bill in coming days to prohibit employers from asking current employees or job applicants for their social media user names or passwords.
Prospective employees do need to read their prospective employer’s privacy rights about using work laptops, tablets, smart phones, other mobile devices, to gain access to social networks. There could be a clause forbidding it. They could use application controls to grant only partial access to social networking sites. These could include, for example, time of day, letting you check messages, but not send attachments. There is some research out there that individuals just joining the workforce are using access to social networking sites as one criterion in evaluating employment opportunities.
Hopefully, something can be passed relatively quickly to stop this practice before it takes off.