Applicants Asked for Networking Passwords

According to a March 20 Associated Press article, employers are increasingly asking applicants for the passwords to their social media profiles.

A Washington Post opinion article offered an explanation of why employers would request access to applicants’ accounts. It stated that employers may want to “see into the more private aspects of would-be employees’ lives – you know, the kind of thing you might purposefully hide.”

Jamin Raskin, an American University law professor and the director of the university’s law and government program, characterized how an applicant might feel if asked to provide passwords to prospective employers. “We’re obviously in a completely different world today with social media, but I think most people would see such a request as intrusive, unfair and an invasion of privacy,” Raskin said.

American Civil Liberties Union representative Nick Warner explained that the ACLU views employers’ request for social media passwords as a violation of privacy. Warner said that such access requests should be handled the same way as searching a home would be — by requesting a warrant.

Thornton Ice Skating Coordinator Erin Schopf handles some of the hiring for Thornton jobs. Schopf said that looking at an applicant’s social media profile is “a little bit of an invasion of privacy. The way you talk to friends isn’t the way you behave in front of an employer.”

Senior Matt Krantz will be a counselor at the overnight camp Camp Wise this summer. Krantz was not asked for his passwords during his November interview but said he would not have been eager to comply. “I don’t have anything to hide . . . but I would have been hesitant,” he said.

Krantz does think that employers should be allowed to look at applicants’ social network sites. “It’s fair for employers to want to see applicants’ profiles,” he said. Krantz explained a profile can show a lot about a person that employers may want to know.

“On Facebook, what you post becomes public to friends and other people,” Krantz said. But, he thinks that there should be a limit; employers should only see what is on an applicant’s wall or what is seen to the public.

Senior Nathan Immerman will be a counselor at Anisfield Day Camp this summer. Immerman feels applicants should not have to give up their passwords. “You’re never supposed to give a password to anyone else. That’s like password making 101,” he said. Immerman thinks that employers should be able to tell enough about a person from an interview without looking at their profiles.

Immerman explained that one’s activity online shouldn’t affect an employer’s decision. “I don’t think that [social media] is that necessary in applications. It doesn’t matter how you are outside of work as long as you do a good job at work and present yourself well in front of customers,” Immerman said.

Maryland has already passed a law that forbids employers from asking applicants or employees for their social media passwords, and other states are working on similar legislation.

 A version of this article appeared in print on 24 April 2012, on page 4 of The Shakerite.

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