Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Should an employer ever require your social media passwords as an employment condition?

At least one state agency in the US, Maryland Division of Correction, recently started requiring employees to provide their personal Facebook password and allow their employer to scrutinise their account as a condition of continued employment.

Apparently this request wasn't illegal - although it breaches Facebook's usage policy (which could mean the employee loses their account).

The rationale given by the employer was that they needed to review the contents of the account as part of the employment contract.

A video of one staff member asked to provide his personal Facebook password is below.

Now this isn't the first time an employer has required their employees to provide personal passwords as a condition of employment. The city of Bozeman, Montana might live in history as the first government to ask all of its staff to provide all their social media passwords - although they quickly dropped the policy when media scrutiny became too high, on the basis that the community "wasn't ready yet".

A number of law enforcement agencies have also apparently begun requesting this information as part of their recruitment process, as reported by USANow in the article, Police recruits screened for digital dirt on Facebook, etc.

There are also stories of financial services companies and other organisations similarly requesting access to personal social media accounts before hiring new staff.

Should employers be allowed to request your passwords?
So are there situations where an employer should be able to access their employee's private social media accounts?

Is this a breach of privacy, or an appropriate step forward for background checks, given how much background people today store in their social media accounts?

Often, for security clearances or in highly sensitive roles, staff in both public and private sector organisations are asked for all kinds of personal information as a requirement of employment. Are requiring your social media accounts details - and passwords - much of a stretch?

Here's some articles discussing the topic:

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