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Why Employers Want Your Facebook Password

BOSTON (CBS) - Keep your passwords private. That's the common advice we hear in the online world.

Now employers are asking workers and potential hires for passwords to social media pages so they can learn more of them.

Job seeker Robert Collins was asked to give his password to an interviewer. "I was just mortified. I just thought that crossed the line."

Melissa Goemann of the American Civil Liberties Union said, "He wasn't forced to, but he felt he wouldn't get hired, so he felt compelled."

Tracy Cashman, a human resource consultant with Winter, Wyman, doesn't like this idea. "I think it's like saying, can I come into your house and hang out with you and your family to see if I like you."

Companies are trying to learn as much as they can about workers, trying to avoid costly hires. Cashman added, "There has certainly been lots of movement towards candidates having to give up much more information as time has gone on."

The National Association of Colleges and Employers said in a statement a password request "violates ethical standards".

They went on to advise career counselors to tell students "employers don't have the right to require them to provide their logins or passwords during the employment recruitment process."

This has become a serious privacy concern. Maryland just became the first state to pass a law preventing employers from asking for an applicant's password.

Cashman said these types of requests present additional problems. "A lot of people's Facebook passwords might be their passwords to other things, and do you really want to give out some variation of the password that you use for your bank account or your ATM?"

Personal information could also open an employer up to liability. Goeman said, "People have so much information on Facebook, everything from family photos, their religion, marital status which employers can't ask about."

A password request might also be a red flag. Cashman believes, "People need to think carefully, would you want to work at a place that is sort of demanding a deep invasion of privacy?"

It does present a dilemma if you are asked however. Cashman doesn't favor providing that information. "My gut would be to say, you know, I am sorry, I appreciate the reasons you might want to investigate me a little further, but I am not comfortable sharing that information. I am happy to provide as many references as you would like."

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