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Facebook bites back at employers: Don't ask for employee passwords

Many New Jersey residents were likely among those who were outraged this week when news reports surfaced about a growing trend in the job interview process: hiring managers asking job candidates for their Facebook passwords.

Many employment law and privacy law professionals felt that this request is a violation of one's rights as a job applicant. Now, Facebook is standing behind them with a statement the social media giant issued today warning employers to back off. Facebook's chief privacy officer warned employers not to ask job applicants for their passwords, and called such an invasion of privacy. Furthermore, Facebook threatened to take legal action against employers who do this.

It has long been reported that employers look at the public social media profiles of job applicants. As such, many Newark area residents are careful about what they post to their profiles, and many people also utilize privacy controls. But, when you turn over your password to someone, of course he or she can then see your entire profile as well as your private messages and the profiles of your friends.

Privacy advocates have argued that asking for a password during a job interview is coercion--as an applicant in need of a job may likely give it up out of necessity. These advocates have said that simply asking the question is similar to asking to go through one's mailbox. The laws governing digital media are quite complex, and much of this field has yet to be explored.

Several states, including Maryland and Connecticut, are moving to outlaw this practice and the Department of Justice has said it considers it to be a federal crime for someone to enter a social media site in violation of its terms of service.

New Jersey workers and job seekers who have experienced an uncomfortable social media issue at the hands of an employer may wish to speak with an employment law attorney about their rights and whether there is cause for legal recourse. Facebook inquiries on behalf of an employer can also lead to discrimination claims if the employer uses certain information found on a social media website to treat someone unfairly.

Source: NPR, "Facebook To Employers: Don't Demand Passwords," Associated Press, March 23, 2012

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