I’ve written before about how employers are asking job applicants for their passwords to social-networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace. The city of Bozeman, Montana, several years ago began a procedure that reviewed and ultimately rescinded its policy requiring that job applicants hand over their passwords to social-networking sites. Last year, amid the controversy over the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services’ practice of asking job applicants to hand over their usernames and passwords for their social media accounts, the Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler said that “requiring a prospective state employee to turn over his social networking user names and passwords as a condition of employment could be appropriate and legal.”
Now, the Associated Press reports on the issue that has privacy implications for people searching for a job:
In their efforts to vet applicants, some companies and government agencies are going beyond merely glancing at a person’s social networking profiles and instead asking to log in as the user to have a look around.
“It’s akin to requiring someone’s house keys,” said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor who calls it “an egregious privacy violation.”
Questions have been raised about the legality of the practice, which is also the focus of proposed legislation in Illinois and Maryland that would forbid public agencies from asking for access to social networks. […]
Companies that don’t ask for passwords have taken other steps — such as asking applicants to friend human resource managers or to log in to a company computer during an interview. Once employed, some workers have been required to sign non-disparagement agreements that ban them from talking negatively about an employer on social media. […]
Back in 2010, Robert Collins was returning to his job as a correctional officer at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services after taking a leave following his mother’s death. During a reinstatement interview, he was asked for his login and password, purportedly so the agency could check for any gang affiliations. He was stunned by the request but complied.
“I needed my job to feed my family. I had to,” he recalled.
After the ACLU complained about the practice, the agency amended its policy, asking instead for job applicants to log in during interviews. […]
Facebook declined to comment except for issuing a brief statement declaring that the site forbids “anyone from soliciting the login information or accessing an account belonging to someone else.”