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YouSpeak: Your Facebook Password

Do employers have the right to demand it?


Increasingly, employers are asking job applicants to hand over their Facebook user names and passwords, presumably so that they can determine the suitability of an applicant.

The practice has sparked an outcry from privacy advocates and prompted Facebook itself to weigh in. Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, recently released a statement saying, “We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords, because we don’t think it’s the right thing to do.” Egan went on to remind both employers and job applicants that “we’ve made it a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password.” The company warned that it would take action, including legal action, to protect users’ privacy and security.

Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) proposed a measure last month prohibiting employers from insisting job applicants reveal their passwords, but it was defeated in the House. Two U.S. senators, Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), have asked the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate whether employers who do ask for passwords are violating federal laws.

This week’s “YouSpeak” asks: Do employers have the right to ask for your Facebook password?

YouSpeak” typically appears each Monday.

If you have a suggestion for a question we should ask, post it in the comments section below.

Alan Wong

Alan Wong can be reached at alanwong@bu.edu.

8 Comments on YouSpeak: Your Facebook Password

  • T on 04.09.2012 at 1:12 am

    Should you even ask? :) Do employers have a right to ask for a spare key to your house? Or your medical records? or your landlord ask for the password to your checking account to make sure you have enough funds?

  • Undergrad on 04.09.2012 at 8:07 am

    I don’t think anyone in the video or article considered that this question is sometimes a trick question by employers to see if the candidate is naive or if they can be trusted with sensitive information. I mean, if they are willing to give their potential future employer access to their most person information available anywhere online, who is to say that they won’t divulge company data by mistake or by coercion? I would recommend never giving out your facebook password. Give them your public profile link and tell them that’s all they need.

    • LO on 04.10.2012 at 9:35 am

      I never thought about it being a trick question. With today’s job market being a ‘buyers market’, employers are getting away with more dirty tricks that may not be illegal, but are definitely questionable: like only hiring those that are currently employed. That’s just not right, no matter how they ‘justify’ it. I know way too many fantastic workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own.

      Back to the question: I would reply that I don’t give out passwords for any account to anybody.

  • Daniel Wowczuk on 04.09.2012 at 9:25 am

    Is there any list with these companies´ names?

  • Sam Stone on 04.10.2012 at 7:35 am

    Sure, you should hand over your Facebook password… at the same time you’re disrobing for the body cavity search, and providing every know bodily fluid (under direct observation) for testing.

    Frankly, I wouldn’t want to work at a company that would require something as invasive as this.

    With that said, ANYONE who thinks that Facebook is “secure” and that their posts are “private” is completely naive and uninformed. Once you put it on the “web”, it’s there for ANYONE with sufficient technical saavy to see. So, if you have something to hide, don’t “hide” it on the Internet.

  • Taylor Wray on 04.10.2012 at 11:45 am

    Of course employers have the right to ask for applicants’ passwords – and applicants have the right to take their talents to employers who aren’t so interested in monitoring their employees’ personal lives.

  • BU Parent on 04.10.2012 at 7:14 pm

    My employer does background checks on all prospective hires. They use a 3rd party company. Part of the check includes a search of online content that’s public. It’s amazing what they find openly posted on FB and other sites. (Most of the info is irrelevant to a hiring decision but now and then….)

    Since the FB terms of use prohibit divulging or soliciting passwords, companies with a FB page who ask for passwords should have their content removed and access blocked. For some “consumer facing” companies that would be a big deterrent.

  • dan on 04.11.2012 at 10:03 am

    Give them my PASSWORD? I would consider that a base trick question, and there would be no-WAY that would happen. They would be welcome to look at my web-page, but . . . . seriously! How about the password to my checking? Savings? My yahoo mail account? Sad state of affairs in this country that this is even brought up. From the European perspective, they must be thinking of this as some modern American slavery. Take a hike!

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