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UPDATE “Just Say No!”- to Facebook Login Request for Employment March 23, 2012

Posted by Chris Mark in Industry News, InfoSec & Privacy.
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UPDATE: Kudos to Facebook for weighing in on this subject.  Facebook says that not only is the practice wrong, but it is a violation of Facebook’s terms of service.  Echoing what I (and others) have said, logging into someone’s FB page could expose the employer to a lawsuit.  “(W)e don’t think it’s right the thing to do,” she said. “But it also may cause problems for the employers that they are not anticipating. For example, if an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don’t hire that person.”

I find myself posting on this subject occasionally because a neighbor, friend or other person will inform me that during an interview or application they were asked to provide their Facebook or other ‘social media’ login.  This topic seems to arise again, and again and was again highlighted on msnbc.com.  So, for those who are asking or saying: “Chris, if you have nothing to worry about, then why do you care?”  Valid question.  Let me answer.  First, if you are looking for a job, as a responsible professional person you should take care to not post inflammatory, racist, hateful or other items on your social media.  If you are a proud member of a hate group, you may want to keep that info private.   Pictures of you doing drugs, or being arrested in New Orleans is also probably a bad idea. 

My concern with a Facebook login request, as should be yours, revolves around privacy.  There are questions that potential employers are NOT allowed to ask either under EEOC rules or other employment laws.  The US is not the only country with discrimination laws so check the relevant laws in your country.  Here is a list of items that potential employers are NOT allowed to ask yet may be present on your social media profile.

  • Age
  • Religion preference, affiliation, practices, or observances
  • Disability
  • Family status (married, single, # of children, spouse’ job)
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Gender unless a Bona-fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ)
  • Inquiries into national origin, ancestry, or prior marital status
  • Organization membership that may indicate race, color, social class, economic, creed, religious or other affiliation
  • Pregnancy
  • Rent or own your home
  • AND MORE!! Read Here.

The point is that most people post a ton of personal information on their Facebook page including pictures of kids, family, memberships, churches, etc. If it is protected, then the company may be in violation of Federal laws by accessing such information as they are not allowed to ask or make hiring decisions based upon the information.  In the MSNBC article, it was discussed that the McLean County, Ill sheriff’s office currently asks for Facebook login information.  When asked why, Chief Deputy Rusty Thomas stated they were looking for: “inappropriate pictures or relationships with people who are underage, illegal behavior.”  This certainly a slippery slope.  Would two people of the same sex holding hands on an obvious date be considered ‘inappropriate”?  To some it certainly would be. More disturbingly, is the picture would provide information on sexual orientation…illegal to ask about.  The concept of ‘inappropriate’ is subjective at best.  More disturbing is the idea that they can invade your privacy to gather information that is illegal to inquire about.  If asked, Just Say No!  While you may need to look for a different job, do you really want to work for a company that will ask for such information?

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