Employers who are asking their current employees, or potential applicants, for their Facebook passwords need to watch out. Facebook has heard about this nasty practice, and is not the least bit pleased about it. An official statement was released by Erin Egan, the Chief Privacy Officer of Facebook Policy.
I found it to be an interesting read. The statement points out that the practice of asking employees, or potential employees, for access to their Facebook profile or private information, is inappropriate. It is referring both to when an employer specifically asks for someone’s Facebook password and situations where the employer directs someone to access their own Facebook page while the employer “shoulder surfs” so that he or she can view the information that is on it.
This is more than a rude and inappropriate request, though. It is also a violation of Facebook’s “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” for a person to share their password, or for someone else to ask a Facebook user for their password.
Part of the official statement points out the many ways that an employer can have a legal liability issue as a result of demanding access to a worker’s, or applicant’s, Facebook page. For example, let’s say that an employer accesses the Facebook page of a person who is a member of a protected group.
Maybe the person is over a certain age, or is part of a minority group, or is gay, lesbian, transgendered, or bisexual. If that information appears on the person’s Facebook page, and the employer fires, or chooses not to hire that person, it opens up the employer to a discrimination lawsuit.
What if an employer reads something on a person’s Facebook page that suggests that the person has committed a crime? This could be as simple as viewing a photo where it appears that an underage worker or applicant is drinking alcohol. Or, there could be information that indicates that the person was involved in a much more serious crime. The employer could now be held liable if they do not report that crime.
The most interesting quote from the statement, by far, is this one:
“We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges”.
In other words, Facebook is not simply going to stand idly by and allow this to happen. It seems to me that they are prepared to take employers who break the rules to court.
Image: Facebook Social Media by BigStock