Job interviewer asks for Facebook password. Should you give it?
Some companies now ask for Facebook and social media passwords so they can check out job applicants. One state is banning the practice, and at least 10 others are weighing similar bans.
If a prospective employer asks for your Facebook password because he has to check you out, should you give it to him? If your boss wants to see your professional ties, is it OK to let her search your LinkedIn account?Skip to next paragraph
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"I was sitting there in a state of awe," Mr. Collins recalls. "He basically implied my collaboration was compulsory." Collins complied, fearing he wouldn't get rehired. Then he got mad. He contacted the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a written protest to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
Savvy employers already check an applicant's "digital footprint." Some companies have gone even further, requesting or even demanding individuals' social media passwords to look at data not open to the public. Whether this practice is legal remains unclear. One state is banning the practice, and at least 10 other states have bills that have been introduced. A few courts have ruled that such requests violate the federal Stored Communications Act, but the US Supreme Court has not addressed this issue. This legal uncertainty leaves many workers on shaky legal ground.
"Most people don't take a problem seriously until it happens to them or somebody they know," says Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, a Princeton, N.J., advocacy group. "Unfortunately, more people are going to have to lose their jobs before enough people take the problem seriously."
Soon after Collins's complaint against Maryland's corrections department last year, state Sen. Ronald Young introduced a bill that would ban em-ployers from requiring or even asking for social media passwords. The bill did not pass in 2011, but was reintroduced and in April passed the House and Senate with almost unanimous support. In May, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signed the bill, making Maryland the first state to ban the practice, starting Oct. 1. At least 10 states have introduced similar legislation, according to Pam Greenberg, an expert on information technology for the National Conference of State Legislatures. "It's likely we'll see additional bills added to this list," she writes in an e-mail.