Yes, you read that headline correctly, employers are now asking, in increasing numbers, for employee social media (like Facebook) user names and passwords. If that doesn't send chills down the spine of every American who proclaims to believe in a free country, or even the concept of privacy, I don't know what will.
Let's begin with what we already know about increasing intrusiveness from both government and corporate/employer interests: As of two years ago, Facebook reportedly receives up to 100 demands from the government each week for information about its users. AOL reportedly receives 1,000 demands a month. In 2006, a U.S. Attorney demanded book purchase records of 24,000 Amazon.com customers. Sprint recently disclosed that law enforcement made 8 million requests in 2008 alone for its customer’s cell phone GPS data for purposes of locational tracking.
Facebook said on March 23 that accessing such information also could expose businesses to discrimination lawsuits. The company said it might ask policy makers to take action to stop the practice.
Facebook and other sites are already used by some potential employers seeking additional background on job applicants because of the personal information posted there. As Facebook has given users additional ways to protect that information from public view, reports have surfaced of employers asking job applicants to voluntarily give them access by providing personal login credentials.
The lawmakers also asked the department to investigate whether the practice violates the Stored Communications Act, which prohibits intentional access to electronic information without authorization or in excess of authorization.
Evidence also suggested that some supervisors factor credit scores into decisions regarding promotion and evaluation of current workers. Could the same be said for Facebook account content?
In the case of credit ratings, there was also the consideration of the role credit agency fraud played in the housing bubble burst, subsequent economic crisis and the reduced credit scores suffered by so many Americans. In that context, for an employer to discriminate against someone with a less than stellar credit record is unconscionable. Wall Street excesses and Congress’ weak response have built plenty of barriers between the jobless and their prospects for future employment. Allowing employers to use credit checks to deny employment only serves as another obstacle to getting Californians back to work.
And to top it all off, credit reports are often inaccurate, and correcting mistaken information is a tedious, time consuming process, and in the meantime, the job applicant is harmed due to errors by credit reporting entities.