Are employers crossing a line asking for social networking passwords in job interviews?

Mar 20, 2012

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Do you want your employer looking over your shoulder to your Facebook page? Credit: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

Interviewers are starting to delve a little deeper into who you are by asking for your social networking passwords. While it is common practice for employers to search for applicants’ public profiles, the claim of this new practice is to find out if someone is involved in illegal or unsavory activity. Looking into what most people consider their private life is crossing the line for some job seekers, though.

The practice, called “shoulder surfing”, is more common in public agencies, such as law enforcement. It has also expanded into education, as the University of North Carolina now requires that their student athletes “friend” at least one of their coaches in order to monitor potential policy violations. Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor describes it as “akin to requiring someone’s house keys,” and “an egregious privacy violation.”

Although it is against Facebook terms of service as well as considered a federal crime, recent testimony by the Department of Justice makes it clear that logging into someone else’s account will not be prosecuted. A suggested alternative is logging in to your own account, but that could still give a potential employer unwanted access.

In today’s job market, some may not feel they have the choice of refusing the intrusion, simply for the need of income. Meanwhile, legislation intended to prevent public agencies accessing social networks is starting to make its way through Illinois and Maryland with others sure to follow.


Would you be comfortable sharing your password with an interviewer? Does this interview tactic have merit for certain jobs, but not others? Would it make you, as an applicant, change anything about your online presence?

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