Hand Over Your Facebook Login for the Job?

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In this age of technology, it's common for employers to use social media to get more information about job applicants.

However, some companies are taking it one step further, asking job candidates to hand over their Facebook user names and passwords.

Is such a request a breach of privacy? Is it legal?

It's no secret that a job applicant's Facebook page will be viewed by a prospective employer.

"You have to assume that they're going to look at that information," explained Anthony Avallone, a job placement advisor.

Many Facebook users have their profiles set to private, meaning potential employers can't see a job applicant's full profile page, including things like personal pictures and status updates.

So some companies are demanding more access.

"It's definitely a step too far for employers to ask for your user name and password. That's your personal information," one person said.

"That's crossing the line between your business and your personal life," another person exclaimed.

Businesses say applicants always have the right to refuse giving up their personal password.

But with the current unemployment rate standing at 8.3 percent, privacy advocates say many job seekers will feel the pressure to give in and give up their information.

"I would say, 'You can't have my user name and password, but I can definitely direct you to my Facebook page,'" one job seeker said.

In a statement, Facebook says its site forbids "anyone from soliciting the login information or accessing an account belonging to someone else."

Proposed legislation in Illinois and Maryland focuses on the legality of this new practice by potential employers. If passed, it would ban public agencies from asking for access to social networks.

So as of now, the practice appears legal. But career experts say the decision to hand over passwords is always up to the job seeker.

"I think if an employer is saying, 'Let me have your Facebook login,' I would be a little taken a back. But you can say, 'I don't feel comfortable with that, but I can probably bring up my account for you,'" Bridget Lichtinger, a career advisor, said.

Law enforcement agencies are among the potential employers that would ask for login information. They claim it's an important part of screening process and is used to make sure the applicant is not involved in gangs or other illegal behavior.

Law enforcement officials say in some cases a Facebook page is more informative than a background check.

*Published Mar. 22, 2012. 

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