Doubleplusungood: When employers start demanding your facebook password

If you don’t think trying to find a job these days is terrifying enough, you’ll be glad to know that employers are starting to ask applicants for their Facebook login information in order to snoop around on their profiles. Remember that status update from last year when you had a really bad day or those unsightly photos that you forgot to untag? It’s the company’s business now, and in some jobs, it’s as regular a part of the application process as a resume.

Almost all of us will be applying for jobs in the future and enough of us post information online for this kind of practice to be a legitimate fear. We lose the illusion of privacy, and we lose the presumption that we have a network that’s completely separate from work. But we’re not in the kind of job market where everyone has a lot of standing to protest this. It’s difficult for someone who needs a job to let their Facebook profile ruin their chance of employment. With what’s at stake for many students, it’s hard to fault them for handing over information they might have preferred to keep private.

Unfortunately, anything you post on the Internet can make it back to anyone. Any of your friends can access your available information any time. Legal protections of Internet privacy aren’t particularly strong. Online, you’re in an Orwellian world of constant surveillance.

Sometimes we forget about that, however, and we post something that really shouldn’t be seen by anyone but our friends. Unfortunately, those are the same things a hiring manager would like to know about. If he or she finds out you’re a regular Thirsty Thursday attendee, that might factor into a consideration of your potential performance. Similarly, anything you’ve said about a current or past employer might be of interest, and you’ve got little defense against those kinds of inquiries.

What will protect you is a bevy of anti-discrimination legislation that prevents employers from inquiring into certain personal details that you might find on a Facebook page. Employers are legally barred from asking about such things as your age or religious beliefs, and job applicants certainly have every right to keep that information private.

Until the Internet’s murky legal status becomes more clear, the proper course of action is defensive Facebooking. Protect yourself by keeping your profile free of anything you wouldn’t want employers to see. If you think it might be a bad idea to post something, it usually is. There are legitimate reasons you wouldn’t want to work for companies that ask you for information they’re restricted from seeing, but don’t make it something you’re forced to hide.


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