Last week, various press outlets reported on a disturbing new HR trend – employers requiring access to the private Facebook accounts of prospective employees.
Companies checking the Facebook accounts of prospective employees is not new. It has become commonplace for HR departments and managers to both “Google” applicants and to see if they have Facebook accounts. It makes good business sense to do this. However, where the accounts had privacy setting restricting access to certain people or networks, that was the investigative end of the road for the employer. No longer.
Some employers (most published stories attribute this phenomenon to American companies) have taken to asking job applicants for their Facebook user names and passwords. This enables the employers to see the full content of any Facebook page attributed to the applicant. Other strategies include producing a computer and having the applicants sign on to Facebook during the interview, or requiring the applicant to “friend” the company’s HR manager.
Predictably, in today’s tough job market, many applicants are providing the information, believing they have little choice if they want the position.
However, isn’t this like letting the prospective employer into your home to rifle through your closets and drawers? Or permitting him/her to read your diary? Or to call your friends from high school? Why is personal Facebook access on the table now, when these other invasions of privacy are not? Should we be afraid to ask what’s next?
It is clear that the pendulum has swung too far. People (even job applicants) are entitled to their privacy, if they’ve had the good sense to maintain it thus far. This type of employer conduct may be justified if hiring an individual for some sort of high level security job. For most positions, it is sufficient to see if a candidate has a Facebook page. If the applicant has had the good sense to restrict access to his or her page, that good judgment should be good enough.