People have become more intentional about the ways in which they share information online. While you might use online social tools like Facebook to share pictures taken at a church gathering or engage in discussions of ongoing medical treatment, you may not want these items broadcast to the general public. So people take steps to ensure that the information that they would like to keep private is not publically available.
But now some employers are seeking access to this personal and private online information by demanding that prospective employees provide passwords to Facebook and other social networking services. Employees obviously feel pressure to comply with this request in order to get the job, despite the invasion of privacy it represents and the potential that the employer might take some illegal job action based on protected characteristics they discover in your online networks.
Policy makers have already begun looking at how to address this issue. Specifically, U.S. Senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar has announced that she will cosponsor federal legislation that will protect employees from potential or current employers who would require that the employee hand over their Facebook password as a condition of employment.
Legislation that specifically prohibited this practice would serve as a useful protection for employees. Until that time, employers may be retrieving information from online social networks. Whether this is done using a password, or by accessing publicly available information, it may provide potential employers with information about a protected status. It is important to remember that employers are not allowed to make employment decisions based on protected characteristics such as race, gender age, creed and other factors.
Source: MyFoxTwinCities.com, “Klobuchar bill bans employers from accessing Facebook passwords,” Shelby Capacio, May 3, 2012.