Social network passwords sought from job seekers

Job interviews used to mean handing over your resume. But these days, some prospective employers are asking applicants to hand over their Facebook and Twitter passwords, so they can see what their potential employees are really doing online.

But is it legal to even obtain that information?

It's not, according to Jeffrey Hancock, assistant professor of Communication and chairman of the Information Science Department at Cornell University.

Hancock noted that in one case, the Maryland Department of Corrections was asking for the passwords of prospective employees to look for gang signs.

Job seekers getting asked for Facebook passwords

"They had a reason that they thought was a good enough reason. I don't think it is," Hancock said. "When they were told they can't do that anymore, they do shoulder surfing. So they actually watch over the shoulder of the applicant while they look through their Facebook profile. And they're saying it's just voluntary. But whenever there's a power differential, you can't say it's voluntary because you want the job really bad. Of course, you're going to do things they ask of you, but, no, it's not OK."

Employers asking for this kind of information is because the technology is new, Hancock said.

"It's tempting (to employers). 'Here's a new way we can find out information about our employees.' But just because it's social media doesn't mean they can access it," he said.

For more on this issue, including its effect on your behavior if you're hired, watch the video in the player above.