Facebook Password Debate Stirs Concern

Source: Information Week

Recent controversy over prospective employers requesting Facebook credentials has dredged up some big social questions.

There has been a lot of fallout from recent stories, including my own, recounting the experiences of prospective employees who were asked to hand over their Facebook credentials during the job interview process.

The dust has far from settled, but so far we’ve seen proposed legislation, a formal response from Facebook, and general outrage at the idea that a personal Facebook account could be considered fair game for employers–and who knows who or what else. Some have also said that when you break down the events, this issue is nothing but a tempest in a teapot.

It all began with an Associated Press story, picked up by the Boston Globe and many other media outlets, about a New York statistician who was surprised when asked by a job interviewer for his Facebook user name and password. It’s not uncommon for prospective employers to check out an applicant’s online activity, including presence on social networking sites such as Facebook, but more and more people are using privacy controls to limit access to their pages–thus, the request for user names and passwords. The candidate profiled in the AP story withdrew his application, saying he didn’t want to work for a company that would ask for such information.

The incident did not seem to represent a widespread trend, by any means, but it was not isolated, and the very thought of exposing what was never meant to be public information had many people crying foul. Indeed, some compared the request for Facebook credentials to the request for the keys to your home. “I submit that handing over your Facebook (or Twitter or whatever) login ID and password is analogous to handing over the key to your house,” said one commenter to my story. “Would we let a potential employer walk around our houses, opening drawers, looking at our letters, checking our diaries, little black books, and contents of our liquor cabinets? I think not.”

The tone and nature of that comment is pretty reflective of most that I received on my story. (Indeed, the post has gotten 28 comments to date, which is about 27 more than I typically receive on a story.) Many also noted that any company that would request Facebook credentials is a company that does not “get” social media or security–and is therefore one that you might want to shy away from. “It’s pretty ridiculous!” started one comment. “Any company that would request access to your personal Facebook account is seriously behind the times and clearly doesn’t understand the role and importance of the social media channels today. … No one should have to waste their time with some lame organization stuck in the dark ages!”

And so it went.

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