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Giving your employer your Facebook password?


How bad do you want to land a job or keep the one you have? Bad enough to give an employer your Facebook password?

When Justin Bassett interviewed for a new job, he expected the usual questions about experience and references. So he was astonished when the interviewer asked for something else: his Facebook username and password.

Yes, folks this is a new trend. Companies and government agencies are asking for employees' passwords so they can go on their social networks and have a look around.

I'm horrified. Bassett is too. But, he says, some job seekers can't afford to be horrified.

"I think asking for account login credentials is regressive," he said. "If you need to put food on the table for your three kids, you can't afford to stand up for your belief."

To me, this is just the latest step toward erosion of privacy. Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor, called it "an egregious privacy violation."  What should our expectation of privacy be anymore?

Since the rise of social networking, it has become common for managers to review publicly available Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts and other sites to learn more about job candidates. This should be in the back of our minds when we post ANYTHING in public view (like maybe St. Patrick's Day partying photos?)

But many users, especially on Facebook, have their profiles set to private, making them available only to selected people or certain networks. Companies know this and that's why they want your passwords.

At least two states are proposing legislation that would ban public agencies from asking for employee passwords, calling it a violation of privacy rights. Can you believe legislation would be necessary?

But at the same time, employers need to know the risk to them.

Labor attorney Alicia Voltmer says they should be asking:  "Even if I have access, do I really want to look?" Voltmer, with Ogletree Deakins, says having the password to a social network site and looking at a candidate's personal page could open an employer to discrimination claims. "If an employer sees something about someone's ethnicity or religion and then doesn't hire them, could that be called discrimination?"

Voltmer says while hiring discrimination can be difficult to prove, it could be expensive and time consuming to defend.

Fox News reports that even companies that don't ask for passwords have taken other steps -- such as asking applicants to friend human resource managers or to log in to a company computer during an interview. Once employed, some workers have been required to sign non-disparagement agreements that ban them from talking negatively about an employer on social media.

To me, our Facebook pages are public but our passwords are personal. I think employers are going to far and employees should fight back with a big, fat, "NO WAY YOU CAN'T HAVE MY PASSWORD."

Readers, is there any circumstance in which you would you give your password to an employer?  Is asking for it crossing the line or just good business?