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Privacy, Discrimination, and Facebook September 15, 2011

Posted by Chris Mark in Uncategorized.
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This post is going to deviate from maritime security.  I was asked today by a person on Facebook whether someone should provide their Facebook login to a potential employer who asks.  In short, a person is applying for a job and the potential employer has asked for the person’s Facebook credentials to view their Facebook account.  Let me preface my answer with some background.  For the past 10 years I have worked extensively in data security and privacy.

The US, Canada, EU, Japan and most other industrialized nations have laws that prohibit discrimination based upon various aspects such as race, creed, religion, disability, political views, etc.  The US is about 10 years behind Europe when it comes to data security laws and privacy laws.  An employer that is asking for your Facebook login is exposing themselves to potential liability and is likely infringing upon your rights.  Many, if not most people, post private information in their Facebook accounts.  Sexuality, marriage status, family, religion, political views, associations which could divulge private information are all commonly posted on Facebook.  By asking you for your login, the employer is doing a few things incorrectly.  First, they are asking you to violate Facebook policy by providing your personal login to the account.  Second, they are placing themselves in a precarious position by removing the non-repudiation from your account.  Consider an example where an employer logs into an account and reads something that their employee wrote that is deleterious to the company.  Who is to say that the employer did not actually write the post?  Since there is a single login there is no way to state definitively that it was the employer.  Additionally, by asking for the login, the employer may be given access to personal private information that could expose them to risk should your employment end.  If a person is gay, or disabled, or an anarchist, or planning on having children, this is their own business and the company has no right to ask about this information and it is a violation of various laws to discriminate based upon such facts.  The US has the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as other laws that protect individual rights.  The UK has, among other things, the Disability and Equality Act; 2010, and the EU has the EU Anti Discrimination Law, among others, that protect employees.

The long and short is that if you are asked to provide your Facebook login, you may want to politely inform the potential employer that 1) You have a public facebook profile that they are free to peruse and 2) There is private information in your Facebook account that the employer has no right to ask to see.  Their asking may, in itself, be a violation of the privacy laws.  Finally, make sure that if you have strong opinions, or lewd photographs, or you curse like a sailor that you don’t post it on your public profile 😉

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