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Facebook changes site rules to stop employers asking for candidates’ passwords

Patrick Stafford /

Facebook has warned employers asking candidates to give up their passwords to the social networking site are in breach of the company’s statement of rights and responsibilities, after a change was made to the document in the past few days in response to recent controversy.

Several American employers, including the Maryland Department of Corrections, have been highlighted by media during the past week after they asked job candidates for their Facebook passwords. Some defended these actions, saying they were part of the due diligence process on new recruits.

However, Facebook disagrees.

“If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password, let anyone access your account, or do anything that might jeopardise the security of your account or violate the privacy of your friends,” it said in a blog post.

Facebook says a user shouldn’t be forced to share information “just to get a job”, saying this has ramifications for friends of that individual user as well.

 “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.”

Joydeep Hor, the founder and managing principal of People & Culture Strategies, says while looking up candidates through social media is now accepted as due diligence, asking for a password is never a good idea.

 “My recommendation would be to stay away from that,” he said.

Facebook also notes there are various legal problem involved with looking up candidates through this method, including opening employers up to discrimination lawsuits – a topic Australian experts have discussed at length in SmartCompany.

“Employers also may not have the proper policies and training for reviewers to handle private information.”

“If they don’t—and actually, even if they do—the employer may assume liability for the protection of the information they have seen or for knowing what responsibilities may arise based on different types of information (e.g. if the information suggests the commission of a crime).”

Hor says while employers need to be careful when looking up social media profiles, the idea of asking for a password could go beyond what is reasonable.

“What are you really trying to achieve when you get access to that page? It’s almost akin to asking to see a bank account or credit card.”

“Questions have to be asked, but there are appropriate limits around that. Employers have to accept that this is a gamble, and that’s why there is a six-month period where employers can release that candidate.”

“If you go intro recruitment thinking, ‘what if we could find out something by putting more pressure to get information’, then I don’t think that’s the right approach.”

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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