Demand for social media password 'crossing the line'

Companies should not have the right to access private domains such as social media accounts, say market observers, but note there are benefits to adding bosses on your social networks.
Written by Liau Yun Qing on

Employers who demand for passwords to social network accounts as part of their reference checks are a "rare exception", and they should not be given access, say industry watchers. However, they note that there can be benefits of using the platform to share information and bond with their supervisors, say industry watchers.

Recent reports from the United States said some employers in the country have asked job candidates for their Facebook passwords. The reports were enough to prompt Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer of policy, to write a blog post warning users "never to share [their] password".

According to Anthony Ung, Singapore country manager of JobStreet.com, he was not aware of any requests by local employers for job candidates' Facebook passwords.

Michelle Lim, COO of JobsCentral, added that companies asking for social media account access were the rare exceptions and not the norm. "While employers would want to know as much as they can about potential hires, it does cross the line in my books to ask for direct access to their social media activities," she said.

Despite employees already providing personal information such as their identification number and health checkup results as reference check, Lim said that it was a "slippery slope logic" when it comes to even more personal information such as bank accounts--although some companies do perform credit checks on candidates.

"The litmus test for me is whether or not the employer needs the information requested to make a reasonable judge of suitability of the candidate and the job at hand," she added. "And of course, it is also up to the candidate to decide if such requests were reasonable."

Ung agreed, adding that social network accounts are private and personal domains of individuals and should remain that way, unless the candidate wants to share particular information within their social group.

However, it is also the employer's right to ask for information as long as it is relevant to the position being applied for, he said.

In a previous ZDNet Asia report, market observers said basing job candidates on social analytics was not reliable as it did not show the candidate's full personality traits and can infringe on the candidate's privacy.

To add or not to add
While social networks were once considered private, an increasing number of employees, especially younger ones, are including their superiors in their circle of friends.

However, it may be trickier when it is the superior who initiates the Friend request.

According to Lim, if the user is comfortable with their superior seeing their social media activities and believes that their Facebook posts would not jeopardize his or her career, they should "by all means" add their boss as a friend.

"However, if you are uncomfortable for whatever reason, it would be good to tell your boss very politely and privately that you would like to keep your social media network separate from your work relations," she said.

That said, she cautioned that the boss may not feel very good about being rejected. However, professionalism should prevail and as long as the users' work performance speaks for itself, there should not be any negative repercussions in the long run, she added.

Aresandran J., general secretary of the Malaysian Institute of Human Resource Management (MIHRM), added that the role of bosses nowadays was more like mentors or coaches. Therefore, employees should have no issue adding their superiors if they fit the description, he said, but warned workers needed to be sensitive about posting inappropriate updates.

How friending your boss can help
Ung added that a good relationship with the superior creates a better and more productive working environment. "One thing that the candidate should take into consideration when deciding to accept a 'friend request' from a superior is whether they consider the superior a friend or a colleague," he said.

"Your boss is human too, so being added as a friend on Facebook, will generally have a positive reaction from him, unless he is intensely private."
-- Michelle Lim
COO, JobsCentral

Thus employees need to be aware that people tend to be open to posting more personal information about themselves online when compared to talking to someone during a social gathering, he said.

JobsCentral's Lim highlighted some benefits for both the employers and employees when they add each other into their social networks. Employees would have a better understanding of their boss which can allow them to identify common interests, topics for conversation and bonding, she said.

Bosses would also be able to understand their subordinates better as a person and give them opportunities to showcase their talent and help with their career growth, she added. "For example, your boss may be able to tell you are great at organizing parties or flea meets through your Facebook updates, and give you the chance to head the event-planning team at work," she said.

"Your boss is human too, so being added as a friend on Facebook, will generally have a positive reaction from him, unless he is intensely private," Lim said. "A good clue to whether you should connect with him on Facebook would be to see if he accepts other colleagues as Facebook friends."

Editorial standards


How to use your phone to diagnose your car's 'check engine' light
BlueDriver Bluetooth dongle

How to use your phone to diagnose your car's 'check engine' light

Hackers are finding ways around multi-factor authentication. Here's what to watch for

Hackers are finding ways around multi-factor authentication. Here's what to watch for

Elon Musk drops details about Tesla's humanoid robot

Elon Musk drops details about Tesla's humanoid robot