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You’re Hired! By The Way, Can We Have Your Facebook Password?

Jon Brodkin, wrote an article for ars technica today about employers asking potential new hires for their Facebook passwords and usernames.  It seems that while most of the reported circumstances involving this scenario took place two and three years ago, the action has gained new tread.

According to the article, two senators, Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Charles Schumer (D-NY), have asked the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, to make a ruling on whether the requests violate federal law.

According to the article by Brodkin, Facebook stated that they could take legal action against the various employers, but have no plans to do so at this time.

In another article written by Brodkin, he includes a quote from the Facebook company,

“As a user, you shouldn’t be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job,” Facebook said. “And as the friend of a user, you shouldn’t have to worry that your private information or communications will be revealed to someone you don’t know and didn’t intend to share with just because that user is looking for a job. That’s why we’ve made it a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password.”

Blumenthal,  is quoted by Brodkin saying these requests are an “unreasonable invasion of privacy.”

So my question is this:  Is this an unreasonable invasion of privacy?

By becoming a member of such social media sites, do you forfeit a certain amount of privacy?  If you are a Facebook user, and say you have 900 “friends”, and lets also say that you post daily life occurrences, personal opinions, photographs and the like, are you still technically, a completely private citizen?  Or have you now jumped into the public arena as some public figure, albeit on a small-scale.

The Sandra Fluke fiasco brought to light a few interesting media law questions.  She chose to take part in a public discussion in front of a mock committee of democratic members of Congress, camera’s rolled and Fluke offered her views and opinions on the topic to be forever part of public record.  Some argue that at that moment, her reasonable expectation of privacy lowered a great deal.

In the spirit of free speech, she has every right to express her views, as do Facebook users.  But, in doing so, it is possible that we are entering a new kind of public arena, opening ourselves to targeted criticism, and possible negative consequences and repercussions from things we say and post.

Is it different if you use the most private settings for your Facebook account?  If your account is completely and  unabashedly public, should that be taken into consideration?  Should these requests by employers be discussed on a case by case basis, depending on the level of privacy chosen by the social media user?

Is there anything wrong with potential employers asking for this information, to make sure that the candidate is the right choice for the company?

Employers do run credit checks on potential new hires, and background checks.  Is this any different just because the medium is different?  I’m not so sure it is.  I can see how both sides of this issue can be argued.  It will be interesting in the coming weeks to see what proposals for legislation manifest, and if this issue acquires new-found “legs”.