Is it Fair for an Employer to Ask for Your Facebook Password?

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I have to admit, I was a little shocked when I first read this. Although I’m self-employed, I have a job interview with a client almost every day. They ask me about myself, my business, and some of my views on economic and political topics. If I’m going to write under their name, they want to know that I’m not some radical that believes that we live in some huge government conspiracy. It’s reasonable to think they will ask me some personal questions but if they asked for my Facebook password, I would politely tell them no.

For some people, if it’s the only good job lead they’ve had in a long time, they may feel like they have to give up their privacy. What if they asked for your personal online banking password or your current health insurance website password? What can you do to politely get out of that quandary?

Is it Legal?

As of right now, yes, it is legal although states like Maryland, Illinois, and California have all introduced bills that would prohibit employers from asking for Facebook and presumably any other password to your personal accounts but this practice may put employers in a bind as well.

We’ve all heard that employers are not allowed to ask certain questions. They can’t ask our age, our relationship status, if we’ll need to take maternity leave not long after getting the job or if we have chronic illnesses. What if they find that information on your Facebook page but later decide you weren’t fit for the position for reasons outside of those? They may have a hard time proving in court that you weren’t qualified for reasons besides your age.

If you don’t think you should have to give up your Facebook password, you have a pretty big ally. Facebook says it will sue anybody who asks for a person’s password because it is a violation of their policies, according to CBS.

Is it Common?

According to this article, no, asking for a person’s Facebook password is rare and will probably soon be a thing of the past once legislation is voted on and signed in to law but if you are faced with the question, politely saying that your Facebook page is used only for communication between friends and family may be the least awkward way of saying no. , Instead, direct them to other profiles like your LinkedIn page. This would give them the information they’re looking for that is legal for them to obtain in most cases.

The other option is to delete all pictures and anything that could be misinterpreted in your Facebook account. That may be time consuming but remember that if you don’t have the right privacy settings, your perspective employer will see everything on your page anyway.

Bottom Line

While the practice isn’t common, employers like the Maryland Dept. of Corrections are asking for peoples’ Facebook password, according to CNN. If you politely turn them down and they don’t make you a job offer, you probably wouldn’t want to work for them anyway.

Most of us would agree that personal information like our passwords is off limits to any employer, future or current and soon, that will likely be backed up by state legislatures.

{ 20 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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20 Responses to “Is it Fair for an Employer to Ask for Your Facebook Password?”

  1. Matt says:

    You can’t expect anything on Facebook to be private, even Mark Zuckerberg’s personal photos got hacked.

  2. I thought it is illegal because sharing your facebook password is a violation of facebook’s terms of service.

    • Matt says:

      Facebook’s personal terms of service have no legal standing. Do you think it’s a law or something?

  3. Drew says:

    No it’s not fair, and I’m not sure legislation is required to substitute a polite “no” between the potential employee and employer. I think your bottom line point is a good one, why would you want to work for that sort of firm anyway? Hopefully this is a storm in a teacup and common sense on privacy will prevail…

  4. Sarah in Alaska says:

    Actually a potential employer can ask whether you are pregnant/will be taking maternity leave. But they cannot discriminate against you based on your answer. Most employers won’t ask the question because it would open them up to accusations of discrimination.

  5. David M says:

    I absolutely think it fair and I absolutely think companies should!

    • Harold says:

      It is wrong, because it allows them access to information about your friends and family without their permission.

    • QuestionAsker says:

      what about it is fair and why do you think they should?

    • Ben says:

      As long as the person giving me the interview gives me their account passwords, as well the passwords of the company owner, and the passwords of the CEO, and well I guess that would be ok then…

    • david m. says:

      you are full of it and do not eve represent my initials ever again!!

  6. AaronB says:

    is it fair? No. Should you be expected to show them your check ledger or give them the login for your online banking, so they can see who you wrote checks to? Should they be allowed to rifle through your email, and see your caller ID list? Even if I have no expectation of privacy for what I post to Facebook, that doesn’t mean I’m going to let them log in as me. Let them poke around at what I’ve made public, *maybe* let them request that I “friend” them so they can see more (not sure about that), but if they want to get into my account, they can take a long walk off a short pier.

  7. Terrence says:

    A simple easy way to resolve all these Facebook/MySpace passwords issue(s) is to delete your accounts and tell the employer that you don’t have Facebook/MySpace. I’m sick-n-tired of all this bureaucratic hoopla sticking their noses into our private affairs. Would it be reasonable to ask employers for their Social Security Number and/or Bank Account statements? I mean if this is the road that we as a society is going to where everyone is a suspect; then, shouldn’t we have the right to do criminal background checks on our employers?

    • Demi says:

      Given the shaky nature of the economy today…my first thought if I had 2 or 3 job offers would be: which one has financial security? It is a shame to have to ask yourself that today. It was not like that 10 years ago. But I agree with you…if they want to see what I do in my past time away from the job…then I should have a right to worry whether I will have a job tomorrow at no fault of my own so crack open the financial reports. I want to see the companies past 3 year performance.

  8. Demi says:

    If they ask me for my password to ANY accounts I may have, then I should have the right to ask them for their accounting ledgers and balance sheets. Just as any potential employer has a concern over how I handle my private life outside of the office…I should have a concern whether or not I will be getting paid weekly from this firm, or should I look elsewhere for more reliable employment? Why has this economy put the worker in a between a rock and a hard spot position that we should need to kiss butt just for a job? I have 1/2 a dozen friends who have given up their right to on-line privacy…just because they needed a job. And some jobs were so minor…lifeguard at a summer entertainment park at $9 hour…its almost embarrassing for an employee to stoop so low as to allow this invasion of out of work privacy. First time I am asked for my passwords to ANY accounts…I get up and tell the interviewer this interview is over. PS…I don’t have a Facebook or Twitter or any other account…but it becomes the principal of the issue.

  9. freeby50 says:

    I don’t think I’d want to work for an employer that was that intrusive and had such a stupid hiring policy. Unfortunately many people are desperate for jobs so some employers feel they have free reign to do whatever they want.

  10. Fabclimber says:

    I am worried that I might be refused a job because I am not signed up for Facebook. If I’m not signed up for Facebook and therefore I don’t have a password can that be checked without being signed up?

    Maybe I wouldn’t be hired because I would be considered low tech without a Facebook account.

  11. mannymacho says:

    Set up a dummy account and give them that password.

  12. Susan says:

    Is it FAIR – probably not. But I’d gladly give them the password. For the facebook account that I’d let them see. Just like most people have separate email accounts for their “real” email and for their “junk” email, I’m sure most people have a “real” facebook page, and a scrubbed version for things like this.

  13. Ray says:

    The best thing is probably to say you have one but don’t use it much and give them a dummy account. I’m sure the hiring people are pressured to do this dirty tactic and will overlook this dummy account.

  14. Aaron says:

    I think it’s ridiculous they would ask this. And frankly – this says more about the employer and should be a big red flag for any prospective employee. I’ve seen too many companies treat their employees like kids. This is just another case.

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