Employment Screening and Facebook

When applying for just about any job, an applicant can expect there to be some type of employment screening process. Typically, this would involve a criminal background check as well as a detailed history of employment and other information on a job application. However, in this day in age of social media — where Facebook and Twitter rule the land — employers are looking to know more and more about the people they are hiring. And lately, some employers are taking the employment background check process even farther — some private firms are asking potential job applicants for their Facebook passwords in order to peruse their online accounts, an action that is considered controversial and was denounced by Facebook administrators.

According to an article published in the Christian Science Monitor in March 2012, private corporations are beginning to ask for job applicants’ Facebook passwords in order to enter into the inner workings of their social network account. It’s a practice becoming less and less uncommon, in this the digital age of transparency, yet it has some people speaking out. Many people feel that it’s one thing for a company to look at their public profile, to view the information they make public to the entire world — but it’s a whole other ball game when a company wants to dig into the most intimate aspects of these social profiles.

The inside information in a person’s Facebook account can include telephone numbers, addresses and other private information, as well as a slew of private messages that have been saved and stored on the account often for many years. The act of giving away a password to any online website would likely be scary for anyone, but also in a struggling economy, people are willing to do what it takes in order to get a job — even if the employment screening process seems a bit intrusive.

Experts in the article warn that firms may be treading in murky legal water when it comes to requiring job applicants to supply their Facebook password. Aside from general rights to privacy, companies have to be concerned with federal and state anti-discrimination laws as well. The fear of this going too far even has several state governments concerned. Legislators in New Jersey, Illinois and Connecticut are beginning to work on laws that would protect the employee from such invasive screening processes, citing an intrinsic right to privacy that all Americans are owed.

While employment background checks and employment screening processes have long been a part of landing a great gig, it seems that things might be going a bit too far. It puts potential employees in a predicament — give up their private, personal information, or risk getting a job that they might need either for fiscal reasons or simply for career advancement purposes. If a job applicant refuses, an employer might think that the applicant has something that they are hiding. If a job applicant gives up the password information, the employer might find something in their profile account that they don’t like — and still not hire them. It is a dangerous practice when it comes to employment screening, and even Facebook administrators feel it has gone too far.

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