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Want a Job? Hand Over Your Facebook and Twitter Passwords

Maryland corrections officer Robert Collins was required to provide his Facebook password in a re-certification interview. He sat there while the interviewer looked through his Facebook account. The interviewer read his posts and posts of his friends.

Can I tell you how wrong, wrong, wrong this is? Amy Alkon goes so far as to call it obscene. Now, companies should be able to fire you if you do something that reflects poorly on them in a public space, such as Facebook or Twitter. But public is the key part here. If it requires you not only "friend" your company but turn over your passwords, then we've left the public realm and entered very much into an area that should only be accessible via search warrant.

It's a federal offense to open someone's mail without permission. It should also be impermissible to require passwords to your employees' social media accounts. Not only are you invading their privacy, but all of their friends' privacy. I know, when I send notes to my friends expressing my deep and abiding love of Hostess Cupcakes, I do so with the understanding that it won't endanger their jobs at Tastykakes.

If Office Collins was applying for super-top-secret clearance it might make sense to do a thorough investigation like this. But he wasn't. The American Civil Liberties Union is on the case. They remind us:

As many of us begin to rely on sites like Facebook to stay connected to our friends and family, it's important for employers and the government to keep in mind that, for most users, Facebook is a medium for private communications. It can be adjusted to be more or less public, both by the settings and by how many people are invited to be friends. So the Maryland DOC requiring full disclosure of an employee's Facebook page is no different from your boss looking through your diary, personal emails or home videos.
It's easy for me to sit here and say, "If asked for your password as a condition of employment, just say no" because I'm not looking for a new job right now. It's not so easy if you need a new job and this is a condition of employment. Hopefully the ACLU and Robert Collins will prevail.

Here is Officer Collins' story:

For further reading:

Photo by Brenda Starr, Flickr cc 2.0
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