Facebook cautions employers not to ask for passwords; Better idea? Don't give them anything worth reading

By | March 26, 2012

Posted in: Network Security Trends

Facebook is cautioning employers not to ask job applicants and even current employees  for their passwords to their pages. The ubiquitous social media company raises some good points, but I’d turn it around: Don’t put anything on you Facebook page you wouldn’t want a prospective employer to see. Ever. Demand online privacy, but don't expect it.

Yes, Facebook has a responsibility to give its customers reasonable tools and straightforward processes to protect their privacy. And, yes, it’s fine for Facebook to waggle its finger at employers and say don’t do that. Facebook’s rationales:


  • It’s wrong. It’s unethical to ask someone to give up a password to a private page when you carry that big stick (a job).

  • Possible legal implications for the employer. For example, Facebook notes a prospective employer can probably get your age on your Facebook page, which may give grounds for a discrimination suit.

  • Companies may not have the proper polices or training in place to handle private information. That's true, but employers are responsible for all kinds of private information from a lot of sources. That's why they have HR departments.

This is all well and good. But I always tell anyone who will listen (including my kids), not to put anything online that someone might use against you later. This, of course, includes phone numbers, email addresses and, God help us, passwords that criminals might use. But if you have private information that you really, really have to talk about, use your phone or get together for coffee.

Not a good idea, for example, to talk about drug and alcohol use, post wild party pictures or announce that you are taking a mental health day from the job.

Think in terms of a background check. If there’s something you wouldn’t want your boss or would-be boss to know, don’t put it on the Internet. I mean, it’s the Internet. The information highway. Drive-up service to your life. You’re probably friending too many people as is. Who knows what a ticked off ex-boyfriend or girlfriend or ex-spouse may pass along from your page?

Speaking of spouses, divorce lawyers absolutely love Facebook. It’s a very, very popular source of information used in divorce proceedings, according to an American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers survey.

You get the idea. When you post it on Facebook, or anywhere online, don’t assume it’s going to be limited to that close circle of 150 of your best friends. Employers, criminals, ex-friends and ex-lovers, law enforcement…. Assume they will get to it or share it. Fight the good fight to protect online privacy, but conduct yourself on the premise that it doesn’t exist.

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