In response to reports that employers, colleges, scholarship providers, and more are asking applicants for their Facebook passwords, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has spoken out against such practices.
In a March 20 blog post titled "Your Facebook Password Should Be None Of Your Boss' Business," the ACLU specifically cited a recent story by the Associated Press (AP) that outlines the conflict as it stands, with some employers defending the practice while potential employees, the ACLU, and others believe it's an invasion of privacy.
ACLU attorney Catherine Crump commented on news covering the practice, writing,
It's an invasion of privacy for private employers to insist on looking at people's private Facebook pages as a condition of employment or consideration in an application process. People are entitled to their private lives. You'd be appalled if your employer insisted on opening up your postal mail to see if there was anything of interest inside. It's equally out of bounds for an employer to go on a fishing expedition through a person's private social media account.
The post went on to describe an example used by the AP of Maryland corrections officer Robert Collins, an employee who was asked to provide his Facebook username and password to his employer, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, back in 2010. Collins obliged because, as he told the AP, "I needed my job to feed my family. I had to."
Following the incident, Collins contacted the ACLU of Maryland, which, in turn, sent a letter to Public Safety Secretary Gary Maynard. As a result of their efforts, the department's previously mandatory policy of employees providing Facebook username and password information has since been suspended and is now considered voluntary.
The ACLU continues to battle in Maryland for a social media privacy bill and will likely engage in conflicts over the issue elsewhere. The organization concluded in its blog post thus:
Bottom line: we believe you shouldn't have to choose between privacy and technology. The same standards of privacy that we expect offline in the real world should apply online in our digital lives as well.
Do you think it's okay for employers to ask potential or current employees for username and password information? Share your thoughts in the comments. Then, take a look at the slideshow for an overview of things you should never post to Facebook.