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Job Interviews & Social Networks

Job Interviews & Social NetworksThere are numerous reports (here and here) out over the last few days condemning employers for asking interviewees to log into Facebook so that the interviewer can peruse their social networking activities or in some cases interviewers are outright asking for interviewee’s Facebook username and password.  Facebook for it’s part is condemning the practice in a recent post on the Facebook Privacy page.  Legislation is being proposed in Maryland and Illinois to ban the practice in those states and now Senator Richard Blumenthal (D – Conn.) is telling the Politico that he is writing a bill to ban it at the federal level.

Make it Stop!

This is a bad idea snowball and someone needs to stop it.  First we had the bad idea of asking interviewees for their social network passwords.  Then we had the bad idea of asking interviewees to allow their interviewers to “shoulder surf” while the interviewee navigates their social network activity as though it is somehow a more acceptable practice.  Next we have the proposal of legislation at the state level and  finally it culminates in the beginning of legislation at the federal level.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I would never consent to allowing a potential employer to view my social networking activity and I am a devout password protector but this is NOT something we need a law for at ANY level.  I suspect that employers will almost immediately stop this practice as a result of the negative media attention it has garnered but that is not what makes such a law unnecessary.  In fact, I think that in some industries, information security for example, it might be a very good request to make to see if potential employees recognize it as an unacceptable invasion of privacy.

Not Another One…

The law is unnecessary because it is reactionary legislation designed to deal with a specific set of events at a certain point in history.  Unfortunately our country is overrun with similar such laws (Illinois example and Virginia example) but that is no excuse to go adding to the legislative burden by creating one more.  It is entirely possible that 50 years from now no one will have any recollection of what a “social network” was or why it would matter if your employer accessed it.

Employers should be free to ask questions they deem valuable during the interview process, it is the interviewees right to choose which questions to answer and how to answer them.  Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, Erin Egan, said in her post that “…you shouldn’t be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job” and while that is true the operative word in the question is “forced“.  Unless there is only one employer and they refuse to hire anyone that will not allow them to view their social networking activity then the issue of force is moot.  Furthermore, why would you want to work for someone who would request this of you?

Conclusion

While it is unfortunate that some are so desperate for work that they may consent to answer some questions that they ordinarily would not, this does not warrant the creation of a law prohibiting employers from conducting interviews in what they consider to be their company’s best interests.

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