In recent weeks, there have been a flurry of reports about prospective employers asking job applicants to provide their Facebook passwords in order to inspect the applicant’s online profile. This gross invasion of privacy is illegal, but presents an important question: How can job seekers protect themselves online?
First, let's address the problem of prospective employers asking applicants for their Facebook passwords. This action is specifically outlawed in Maryland and is of an ambiguous legal nature in other states. ACLU lawyer Catherine Crump released a statement in response to reports of prospective employers asking applicants to provide passwords, “It’s an invasion of privacy for private employers to insist on looking at people’s private Facebook pages as a condition of employment or consideration in an application process. People are entitled to their private lives. You’d be appalled if your employer insisted on opening up your postal mail to see if there was anything of interest inside. It’s equally out of bounds for an employer to go on a fishing expedition through a person’s private social media account.”
Also under Facebook’s Terms of Service, it is prohibited for a Facebook user to share his or her password with anyone. Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer of policy recently wrote that, “As a user, you shouldn't be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job."
However, many applicants in this situation succumb to the pressure from prospective employers. Applicants said that they felt that would be denied the job if they refrained from providing their password.
Asking for unlimited access to a prospective employee’s account is an overt and easily recognizable invasion of privacy. However, there is another common hiring practice that may be considered an invasion of privacy, but it is easier to protect against. Prospective bosses will often “friend” applicants in order to examine their online activity. Employers delve into an applicant’s profile to find out whether this applicant is a good match for the company.
This is where applicants get into trouble with over-sharing. Yes, your Facebook profile is part of your personal life, but not necessarily part of your private life. Facebook is a platform for users to share their personal lives with their friends, but because it's over the Internet, it is not always private. What you share and post can also be shared and posted by others, so it is important to edit your online activity and be aware of your presence online. You wouldn’t want an ill-advised Facebook status update to prevent you from getting a job, would you? So here are some rules to follow to prevent over sharing:
5) Use the highest privacy setting.
If you have not accepted a friend request from someone, he/she should not be able to view your profile. Your photos, wall posts, likes, and information should not be readily available to strangers.
4) Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your mom to see.
If your mom wouldn’t approve, it probably shouldn’t be on Facebook.
3) Enable profile review.
Profile review lets you exert control over their online profile by giving you the option you to decide if photos or posts you are tagged in will show up on your profile.
2) Refrain from posting pictures with alcohol/drugs.
Don’t post pictures of all the alcohol you bought. Don’t post pictures of you drinking. Don’t post pictures of you smoking. Don’t post pictures in which you are drinking from a red Solo cup (we all know what’s in there).
1) Don’t use Facebook as a personal broadcasting system.
Keep posts about relationships, complaints, and political opinions to a minimum.
These rules will keep you safe from over-sharing if a prospective boss should come calling on Facebook. Just remember that not everyone needs to know every detail about your life.