Earlier this week, reports of job seekers being required to hand over private login information for such social networks as Facebook in order to be considered for employment spread across social channels and mainstream news outlets.
The privacy concerns seemed like a secondary thought with employers like the Maryland Department of Public Safety and the City of Bozeman, Montana who used to require employees social media network logins. At one time they required such information to verify whether or not their employees were affiliated with gangs or involved in unethical behavior.
Whether spurred by fear of social media networks and their viral nature when it comes to note-worthy video clips or negative press, these organizations put themselves at serious legal risk when entering candidates Facebook account information.
Would you hand over your login info?
The overwhelming majority of active Facebook and Twitter followers we spoke with said they would not be willing to hand over access, with many concerned about the access employers would have to friends accounts.
Even a SMC Facebook fan page member Jodi Nelson said “I was put into a weird predicament when a potential employer, who I was to interview with asked to friend me on FB. What do I say? Say no, they think I’m hiding something and not a ‘team player,’ say yes and they have my personal life at their fingertips. No amount of giving up my personal privacy is worth a ‘dream’ job.”
Paul Rubell, a social media attorney and partner at the law firm of Meltzer Lippe in New York says, “The Stored Communications Act makes it unlawful to access a person’s electronic communications without the user’s authorization. And though potential employees may be providing companies their Facebook login info, the courts may interpret the conditions surrounding their ‘authorization’ as a coercive act – given that the authorization is being requested in the midst of a job interview.”
The legal risks and how to protect yourself
Michael Hayes of Momentum Specialized Staffing, a full service boutique staffing company located in Phoenix, Arizona says, “As a recruiter, part of the problem with hiring people today is nobody wants to talk to anybody.” Hayes goes on to say that companies seeking to automate their recruting system may require social media passwords, which relieves their staff of having to sift through thousands of applicants.
In a statement released by Facebook earlier today,
Employers also may not have the proper policies and training for reviewers to handle private information. If they don’t—and actually, even if they do–the employer may assume liability for the protection of the information they have seen or for knowing what responsibilities may arise based on different types of information (e.g. if the information suggests the commission of a crime).
“The entire issue of training HR manager is but the tip of the HR iceberg. Every company needs to have a well thought out Social Media Policy that governs the company’s use of social media for its own business; employees’ use of social media via the company’s computing devices and/or during working hours; the use (and misuse) of social media to obtain PII about prospective employees; and a host of other related matters. A good Social Media Policy provides transparency and consistency so that all concerned individuals will know what conduct is expected, and what the ramifications will be in case of misconduct” says Rubell.
In a report by MarketingProfs, 35% companies still don’t have any written social media policy in practice, with 9% saying they didn’t think it was important. SMC Editorial Team member, Syed Raza highlighted the importance of finding the right social media policy model in this post.
“We know that in a job interview an employer is not allowed to make hiring decisions because someone, for instance, is a minority or because a woman is pregnant,” Rubell says. “An employer would be hard pressed, I think, to defend against the claim that it stumbled upon protected class information as a result of perusing a person’s Facebook or Twitter page and that didn’t factor into its hiring decision.”
Hayes shares “there are plenty of ways to screen people out that don’t require a recruiter or HR manager to visit a candidates Facebook page.” He expects employers are missing out on qualified candidates because some may not be willing to compromise their privacy in order to land an interview or position.
With all the press and privacy concerns facing job seekers, Facebook stated their willingness to take action to protect the privacy and security of their users, up to and including legal action.
To stay on top of this and other Facebook privacy concerns, follow the Official Facebook and Privacy page here.
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