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

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 [3].

Is it Common?

According to this article [4], 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.