By Meagan Dorsch
When applying for your next job, you may need to submit the username and password for your personal social media accounts along with a cover letter, résumé and list of references.
Several companies, and government agencies, have been challenged for allegedly asking job applicants to provide passwords to their personal social media accounts as a condition of employment. This week, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) asked the U.S. Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to look into the matter.
This issue had already grabbed the attention of state lawmakers. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, lawmakers in a handful of states have introduced legislation to prohibit such actions. The state of Maryland is set to be the first state to enact this legislation prohibiting this action. A separate bill passed the House in Illinois, and concern over this practice might even prompt federal legislation.
Why do employers want to see what you do on social media? Presumably, they are looking for the “real” you, making sure that those who work in public agencies or with children are not engaging in inappropriate behavior or that those in a high profile position (who might represent a company) do not have inappropriate material floating around online.
What appears to be at the heart of this issue for state and federal lawmakers are privacy and employment laws, both of which could be violated if a person provides passwords to personal accounts. There is also the concern over businesses violating the Federal Stored Communications Act. Even Facebook, the company that has been at the heart of several privacy issues, says providing this information goes against its user agreement. The company has even threatened to sue employers that violate its policy.
Senators Blumenthal and Schumer have called this a disturbing trend, one that has the attention of Congress, state legislatures and the public. For some, it’s an issue of privacy; others see the issue as an infringement of rights. As one person commented on a recent thread, if an employee is asked for his/her password, is it fair to demand it from the company as well?
Photo from the Daily Press & Argus article in Livingston Daily.com.
Updated April 11, 2012 to include information regarding Maryland's bill.