Facebook today weighed in on the issue of employers asking current and prospective employees for their Facebook passwords. The company noted that doing so undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user's friends, as well as potentially exposes the employer to legal liability.
"If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password, let anyone access your account, or do anything that might jeopardize the security of your account or violate the privacy of your friends," Facebook Chief Privacy Officer for Policy Erin Egan said in a statement. "We have worked really hard at Facebook to give you the tools to control who sees your information. As a user, you shouldn't be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job. 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."
In fact, Facebook points out that sharing or soliciting a Facebook password is a violation of the social network's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Here's the relevant excerpt:
You will not share your password, (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.
The social networking giant is considering using the law to protect its 845 million users. There are two routes Menlo Park is looking at: a) getting politicians to pass a law barring employers from this practice and/or b) suing employers who are asking you for your Facebook credentials.
"Facebook takes your privacy seriously," Egan said in a statement. "We'll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges. While we will continue to do our part, it is important that everyone on Facebook understands they have a right to keep their password to themselves, and we will do our best to protect that right."
This is great news for all Facebook users. Previously, the only organization protecting Facebook users from this problem was the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which refers to the practice as privacy invasion.
"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," ACLU attorney Catherine Crump said in a statement. "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."
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