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Teacher's Aide Fired For Refusing To Hand Over Facebook Password

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  • by sethstorm (512897) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:07PM (#39541105) Homepage

    Is it required to break a legal contract with one entity to maintain employment with another?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:17PM (#39541199)

      Is FB going to ban the supervisor (if s/he has an account on FB) for breach of the terms of service? That could be an effective deterrent.

      • by _KiTA_ (241027)

        Is FB going to ban the supervisor (if s/he has an account on FB) for breach of the terms of service? That could be an effective deterrent.

        Or if Facebook sues the company demanding this, which would put an end to this very, very quickly.

      • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @02:11PM (#39542057)

        Is FB going to ban the supervisor (if s/he has an account on FB) for breach of the terms of service? That could be an effective deterrent.

        Being banned from Facebook is an honor. If they want an effective deterrent then what they want to do is have the woman find out if the school took passwords from any other employees, then verify that these were used. At that point you have an unauthorized computer access for which there are serious laws with serious jail time [ncsl.org]. Throw the book at whichever members of the school conspired to make those illegal computer accesses.

        If you or I accessed a girlfriend's account you would get into serious trouble. If Facebook doesn't make sure the same happens here, they are failing in their duty to use all reasonable means available to protect the integrity of their user's accounts.

        N.B. Under section 4 point 8 of Facebook's terms of service [facebook.com], other members of staff are not allowed to hand over their passwords, so the access remains unauthorized even if they agreed to it.

        4 Registration and Account Security

        Facebook users provide their real names and information, and we need your help to keep it that way. Here are some commitments you make to us relating to registering and maintaining the security of your account:

        • [.. intermediate points elided..]
        • 8. You will not share your password, (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.
      • by History's Coming To (1059484) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @06:07PM (#39543735) Journal
        Ban? They should bring criminal prosecution for "unauthorised access to computer equipment" or whatever the US equivalent is. This is hacking via social engineering, pure and simple, case closed.
    • by Khyber (864651)

      I would think it only permissible in the case of a clear conflict of interest.

      • by tqk (413719) <s.keeling@mail.com> on Sunday April 01, 2012 @06:53PM (#39544073)

        I would think it only permissible in the case of a clear conflict of interest.

        I would think it only permissable in the case of a valid search warrant. Nobody should expect themselves to be allowed to login to a system as another user. root/Administrator can do it other ways less destructively. Users should not let *anyone* use their login credentials.

    • Depends on the entity (if Uncle Sam wants that password, he's going to get it 9/10 times).

      But what these people are currently doing? Illegal. While there may be reason (in the Puritan sense of the word) not to employ someone who conflicts with your company / community / whatever, there isn't any reason to ask for a password to an account that has no relationship with said employer. Employ the person or not, asking for the password is grounds for a lawsuit.

    • by jbolden (176878) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @01:20PM (#39541677) Homepage

      Funny enough there is a legal term for that "tortious interference". That is the act of encouraging someone to break a contract. She could have raised that position. Of course there is still the standing issue of whether account agreements are actually contracts at all but...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm more curious about what's going to happen to fools like me who don't have a Facebook account and have never used the site. If I fail to hand over a Facebook password, will they just think that I'm lying? Is there a way to prove that you don't use the service? Should I create an account just so I have something to hand over to Big Brother?

      • by tqk (413719)

        I'm more curious about what's going to happen to fools like me who don't have a Facebook account and have never used the site. If I fail to hand over a Facebook password, will they just think that I'm lying?

        We're in "stealth mode." They think we're Luddites, never having learned that *everybody* is *supposed* to have a FB and Twitter account.

        Meanwhile, we get to sit back, munching on popcorn, while crap like this happens to them. I'm off to the forest to memorize a book, a la Fahrenheit 451.

    • by jon787 (512497) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @04:59PM (#39543241) Homepage Journal

      I believe the legal term is tortious interference and Facebook could pursue civil action for it. Possibly even pursue criminal action under the CFAA by arguing it is still unauthorized access despite the fact that the password was disclosed.

      "Tortious interference with contract rights can occur where the tortfeasor convinces a party to breach the contract against the plaintiff, or where the tortfeasor disrupts the ability of one party to perform his obligations under the contract, thereby preventing the plaintiff from receiving the performance promised."

  • Excellent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msobkow (48369) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:08PM (#39541111) Homepage Journal

    Now the ACLU has a case they can use to clarify that it's illegal to do this under current legislation and put a stop to the nonsense.

    It's too bad it'll take so long for it to churn through the courts.

    Presuming the ACLU, EFF, et. al. don't decide to wait for a "better" case, that is.

    • Re:Excellent (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Fjandr (66656) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @01:39PM (#39541839) Homepage Journal

      Another absolutely moronic thing is the article specifically says asking for the password is not illegal under current law, which will make it hard for the aide's case. It doesn't matter that they asked for it; it matters that they fired the aide for refusing to give it up unless the law allows for firing without cause (as I doubt that's granted as a legitimate cause under any state's laws).

      • First In Michigan, a Right to Work state,it's actually easier to fire someone for no reason than it is for cause, and secondly entering Facebook's computer network in violation of their terms of service is computer trespass, which is a felony.

  • by Shavano (2541114) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:08PM (#39541125)

    Now we can have this out in court.

  • by pijokela (462279) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:10PM (#39541147)

    Up until now, I've only heard of harassing people applying for jobs. It is easy to demand anything from a job applicant: when they are not selected it was just because they "did not fit" or something. Firing an existing employee is a whole different thing. Now we can finally put a stop to this illegal activity. Or maybe we will learn that it is legal in the U.S. - you never know.

    • by Mr Z (6791) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:16PM (#39541197) Homepage Journal

      Well, this is a public school. They seem to make an artform out of administrative idiocy, whether it's installing spy software on laptops so they can confuse Mike & Ikes with drugs [myfoxphilly.com] or applying zero tolerance nonsense to activities that take place off school grounds and outside school hours. They make it a point to stick their nose in where it doesn't belong.

      Sure, students are largely the victims of this crap, but teachers and administrators occasionally get this crap splattered on them too.

      • by Sancho (17056) *

        Zero tolerance is not idiocy. Well, it's idiocy in the same way that George W. Bush was an "idiot."

        Zero tolerance basically gives them a get-out-of-court-free card against racism charges when the school has to punish someone for some activity. Before zero-tolerance, judgement was used, and when black kids were punished for the some activity, there were almost always cries of racism. ZT ended that, because the policy is easy to point to and there is no human judgement to call into question.

        • by Mr Z (6791) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @01:34PM (#39541797) Homepage Journal

          ZT is idiotic, in my opinion. Sure, when you allow human judgment into the picture, you also allow for biases and selective enforcement. Those are both problems, and I would be wrong to argue otherwise. ZT, though, leads to suspensions [live5news.com] and arrests [akamaihd.net] ibuprofen to school, or suspending first graders for bringing Cub Scouts gear to school. [foxnews.com]

          The policies themselves were not designed with ZT in mind. The policies are human-designed, and intended to be applied by humans, with human reasoning, to human situations. ZT effectively turns them into hard computer programs without actually requiring the policies to be fully elaborated to account for all the extenuating circumstances under which they might be applied. I argue that in most cases, that simply isn't possible. At the very least, it is very far from likely unless you spend considerable effort. If it were easy, we wouldn't have a court system (complete with appellate courts).

          And, it doesn't even save you from capriciousness. Instead it leads you to amplify the whims of children. For example, in one of the links above, the student was "caught" because some other kid claimed she had a knife. The likelihood someone gets ratted out (and thus subjected to the worst effects of ZT) varies based on the attitudes and decisions of the fellow classmates, not the now supposedly immune administrators. That just sets the system up for worse outcomes, because a big lever of the system (detection/reporting) is left to the kids, and enforcement is automatic and uncontrolled.

          Furthermore, if an administrator does notice something punishable, but lets it slide silently because nobody else notices, who would know? ZT only applies once its obvious to everyone that there's an infraction. The system isn't even airtight at that level, since the decision to let something slide undetected is an individual decision on the part of that administrator, and they can later claim (usually) to not have noticed the infraction.

          Explain to me again how the sliver of legal protection offered by ZT isn't idiocy compared to these awful, stupid outcomes?

  • by houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:11PM (#39541151)
    Another reason not to "friend" everyone you know. Seriously, if you want to keep personal and work separate, keep it separate! No one I work with is on my facebook.
    • by DJRumpy (1345787)

      Although this is probably a good practice, it is irrelevant to the story. It shouldn't matter if she keeps her personal and work contacts separate. The heart of the matter is that this is 'her' Facebook page. It is private, and none of her employers business as to what she posts there. If a judge orders her to reveal her password, that's a different matter, but her employer has no legal grounds to order and expect obedience for such regardless of who she friends, what combination she friends them with, or w

  • by mfwitten (1906728) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:11PM (#39541153)

    I don't understand this obsession people have with gaining access to people's Facebook accounts. What is the origin of this craze? Why is it considered acceptable to require from people a Facebook password, but not, say, a Gmail account password?

    Even more so, I don't understand this acquiescence to "authority" that many people seem to display; why in the world would you give somebody else your password like this?

    • by vlm (69642) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:20PM (#39541229)

      Most people are dumb enough to use the same email addrs / username / password for all online sites. So to be "k00l and Trendy" you ask for the facebook password, but you know that is also her eHarmony login info, her bank login info, her amazon login info, probably her /. login info, etc.

      acquiescence to "authority"

      That is the obsession HR is looking for. A nice mindless sheep who will never say "no". Illegal? Who cares. Immoral and unethical? Who cares.

      I'd be terrified if I had kids in the "Lewis Cass Intermediate School District". The people they are looking to hire will have to be absolute monsters, unsuited to being in charge of kids. Holy Nuremberg Defense batman!

      • what about the IT rule of not giving out passwords? acquiescence to "authority" what about breaking IT / security rules?

      • by Nyder (754090)

        Most people are dumb enough to use the same email addrs / username / password for all online sites. So to be "k00l and Trendy" you ask for the facebook password, but you know that is also her eHarmony login info, her bank login info, her amazon login info, probably her /. login info, etc.

        acquiescence to "authority"

        That is the obsession HR is looking for. A nice mindless sheep who will never say "no". Illegal? Who cares. Immoral and unethical? Who cares.

        I'd be terrified if I had kids in the "Lewis Cass Intermediate School District". The people they are looking to hire will have to be absolute monsters, unsuited to being in charge of kids. Holy Nuremberg Defense batman!

        How about the trend of other sites requiring your Facebook or Twitter Login to log into a completely different site?

    • by jbolden (176878)

      Why it is considerable acceptable is that Facebook is becoming a major factor in social interaction. Events are occurring on Facebook. And we have no body of law of how Facebook interactions are to be treated:

      a) Are Facebook posts that are public subject to the same sort of rules as newspaper articles?
      b) Are Facebook posts to be treated with the same seriousness as personal letters?
      c) Are Facebook posts about work related activities to be considered work related materials and subject to the much broade

  • by Eravnrekaree (467752) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:14PM (#39541173)

    This is not perfect, but one possibility might be to set up a dummy facebook account and give that to them, rather than your real one. However, it is clear, this should be illegal, people who run into this should contact a lawyer and file lawsuits, as well, Facebook has expressed interest in filing lawsuits against employers who do this, so, notify Facebook of this if an Employer, or anyone else, has requested your password.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:18PM (#39541215)

      This is not perfect, but one possibility might be to set up a dummy facebook account and give that to them, rather than your real one. However, it is clear, this should be illegal, people who run into this should contact a lawyer and file lawsuits, as well, Facebook has expressed interest in filing lawsuits against employers who do this, so, notify Facebook of this if an Employer, or anyone else, has requested your password.

      Please use more commas in your next post.

    • by gstrickler (920733) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:21PM (#39541237)

      Setting up a dummy account is a violation of FB terms of service, as is giving someone else your password. Neither is acceptable. The company can have the password to my company owned/sanctioned accounts when necessary, but they will never have the password to my personal accounts, and they have no right to even ask for them.

    • by Eravnrekaree (467752) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:22PM (#39541239)

      By the way what they are asking is similar to demanding that you give them the keys to your house so they can search your house, or them demanding that they strip search you, even an employer searching your purse or bags is unacceptable, among other things. What is going on here is something like stalking, harrassment, invasion of privacy and so on, employers who do this must be punished. This is an example of how corporations and private entities can be as much or more of a violation of rights against us, and why we need legal protections against corporations and private entities as much as we do government.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:20PM (#39541231) Homepage

    She will be getting a few years of pay from illegal dismissal.

    the school screwed up big time. Michigan is not a right to work state, so they cant fire you for any reason. and this school was retarded enough to publicize WHY she was fired so now it's a slam dunk in court.

    If she get's a good lawyer, she will walk away with 10 years of her salary from the school.

    • She's an aid. 10 years will be 30,000.

    • And quite right too! Too many in America just accept that their employer has the right to do anything they want, at any time even if they aren't paying their employee 24/7/365.

      (Caveat: I'm assuming this isn't a April Fools joke seeing as it was posted after 12)

    • by Kneo24 (688412)

      Even in right to work states you can take someone to court for wrong dismissal. Unfortunately you can come up with any bullshit story. This has happened to my current employer a few times. We'll bend over backwards to try and get you to be a good fit for the company, and the malcontent people will just get a lawyer and make stuff up. I believe the most anyone has got out of us is about 10,000 in a settlement.

      One of the people was claiming discrimination. Because he was Hispanic we apparently told him to cl

  • by voss (52565) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:29PM (#39541295)

    Kimberly Hester does not have clean hands. Posting an offensive picture of a co-worker with pants around ankles could be considered sexual harassment.

    This is not harmless fun "A parent and Facebook friend of Hester’s saw the photo and complained to the school."
    What teachers and employees do reflects upon the schools.

    Teachers and school employees have a higher standard of care especially when posting comments about other employees.
    Schools can and have been sued for failure to act in cases of sexual harassment. The school district had reasonable suspicion.

    • by hazem (472289) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:43PM (#39541381) Journal

      Kimberly Hester does not have clean hands. Posting an offensive picture of a co-worker with pants around ankles could be considered sexual harassment.

      This still does not justify asking for access to her account or firing her for it. If they need information from any of her accounts (email, social media, or otherwise) they should be going through the courts to go through a process of discovery to get access to that material.

      As it is now, if they were to gain access, any evidence would be immediately suspect because now there is no way to prove that they themselves did not put the offending information there.

      So even if the administration felt justified in asking for her account information, actually getting it and using it to log into her account would be monumentally stupid.

    • by Omestes (471991)

      Back in the mid-90's when I was in high school, one of our hall monitor type people got drunk in Mexico, and did all manner of silly drunken things. She did this on a "faculty" trip. The guy who ran the study hall (yes, I was a bad apple) showed the pictures too all of us on a website maintained by another faculty member during one round of detention. I don't think he got in any trouble over it, and the woman in the pictures actually found it rather amusing too, as did we, since she was known as a hard-a

    • WRONG! (Score:5, Informative)

      by billybob_jcv (967047) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @01:39PM (#39541841)

      Did you look at the picture?? I'm thinking you have not. Watch this video to see the picture:
      http://www.southbendtribune.com/news/wsbt-teachers-aide-in-legal-battle-after-refusing-to-let-school-district-access-her-facebook-page-20120328,0,6869936.story [southbendtribune.com]

      It is a picture of shoes and a pair of pants with some skin from her calves showing - that's all. It is NOT a picture of her co-worker - it is a picture of herself. No one was exposing anything. I guess the inference is that she's sitting on the toilet.

      So - let's change the scenario slightly. Let's say she lost some weight and she proudly posts a picture of herself, fully clothed, but the outfit is tight enough to show she is obviously much thinner. Is that offensive? Inappropriate? Exhibitionist? What if she posts (again fully clothed) before and after pics from a boob job?

      But set all that aside - judges make calls every day on harassment & inappropriate behavior - and they can do the same thing here. The bigger issues are that the employer wants her to give up a personal password for an "investigation", and that not complying meant she was fired. So - if someone reports that she has a porn magazine at her home, does that mean the school will demand to enter her home? This whole thing stinks. The employer is a jackass. The "friend" who reported her is a jackass. Kimberly is a typical clueless facebook user that doesn't understand that you need to separate real friends from people who shouldn't know what you post to your real friends.

      Television, movies, magazines and online media continually gets more and more raunchy - yet our workplaces become more and more rigid and unrealistic. Our society is doomed.
                 

    • by digitig (1056110)
      If they have evidence that Kimberly Hester did that then they should follow their sexual harassment disciplinary process. If that process involves demanding that anybody violate Facebook's T&Cs by handing over their password then that process is not legitimate.
    • Do you know why American schools suck? Because the rise of puritanical paranoia removes human beings from teaching positions, and replaces them with dull, lifeless, carbon copies of Stepford Wives and Husbands who make life miserable, because they are miserable. They can't inspire because they aren't inspired. Their idea of excitement is ordering children around in fascist, legalistic systems built on top of the facade of justice, covering up their new role as conformity enforcement. America has created sch

  • by Ronin Developer (67677) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:34PM (#39541321)

    This will prove VERY interesting in states that have "At Will" employment. In those states, an employer can fire you or you can leave...for no specific reason.

    However, this is an invasion of privacy and also is requiring the employee to violate another contract via coercion (penalty is the loss of their job if they don't).

    Some may say that if they don't have anything to hide, what's the big deal? Big deal is that should not be a reason to give up your privacy. Period.

    If someone tried to force me to give up my privacy, I would expect them to sign a document stating their reason for having done so and what the penalties are for non-compliance. Then, I would take that immediately to a lawyer for litigation. I will not work for anyone this draconian. Already turned down a job because they wanted me to disclose more of my IP without being willing to sign an NDA/Non-Compete for that information. This is none of their business. Period.

    I am not sure which political party is pushing this sort of access greater - Democrat or Republican - you hear how the Democrats are pushing us towards martial law. Yet, the restrictions and powers of individuals really started eroding following 9/11 under Republican rule. I am guessing (perhaps, incorrectly), on this being a Republican issue. If they win this time around, expect more "corporate" rights (they already have been ruled "individuals" by the Supreme Court) and fewer personal freedoms and protections for yourself - the "individual" with the deeper pockets will win - just as they always have.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GmExtremacy (2579091)

      I am not sure which political party is pushing this sort of access greater

      Both. They're both absolute garbage. They aren't always proposing the same things, but both seem to be in favor of eroding our freedoms.

  • Not quite (Score:5, Informative)

    by thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) <marc.paradise@NOspaM.gmail.com> on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:34PM (#39541327) Homepage Journal

    TFS gets it wrong and TFA never clarifies.

    The administrator asked to view the Facebook account [wsbt.com] - no request was made for her password. Whether or not this is OK remains up for debate, but having the facts is always preferable...

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @01:05PM (#39541553)

    is there a paypal (sigh; yeah, I hate PP but its what is used, these days) for donations?

    this is something we all need to get behind and ensure that the school gets a VERY bloody punch in the face (figuratively) from their bad behavior.

    the only way a corp will ever learn is if they are punished and punished HARD. almost put-them-out-of-business hard. I don't care if its a school; a lesson (lol) needs to be taught here.

    I'll donate. but I don't see an addr for that; is there one?

    and yes, I realize the lawyers will make out the best on this; but I still want a lesson to be taught to asshole companies and organizations who think they have free reign over workers' privacy.

  • by sethstorm (512897) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @01:14PM (#39541625) Homepage

    If I am asked that question, I'd say the following:

    While I am aware of your concerns with my personal conduct, giving my credentials would signify a breach of trust. If I were to do the same in the workplace, it would add liability and likely result in my termination. Is there another way that I can supply this kind of information, such as additional references to my personal character, while retaining the trust that I have built with people that I know personally and professionally?

    This might be a bit long(and can be shortened a bit), but it would properly answer both the shoulder surfing and password requests in a courteous manner.

    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @01:38PM (#39541833)

      my answer is: the TOS of fb are not acceptable to me and I have not joined because of this.

      100% true (for me) and a graceful way to get out of this bullshit rat-race.

      even if you do have a fb acct, they are asking you to break the rules. and so, if you have to lie back to them to right that rule breakage, so be it. fight fire with fire, basically.

      but still, the more I hear about fb issues, the more I'm glad I never joined. and if I did join, I'd have removed all info and deleted the account after hearing so much employer abuse about this!

  • by jkbull (453632) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @02:36PM (#39542233)
    If, as the summary and the ZDNet article states*, the school administration asked for her password, they may have engaged in tortious interference [wikipedia.org] -- interfering with a contract between two other parties (the teacher and Facebook).

    The Facebook Facebook terms of use [facebook.com], section 4.8) says

    You will not share your password, (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.

    * (According to an earlier comment [slashdot.org], that is not true, the administration asked only to view her pages.)

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @08:28PM (#39544741)

    I know XKCD is the standard comic-of-choice for Slashdot posts, but this Joy of Tech comic seems apropos:

    http://www.geekculture.com/joyoftech/joyarchives/1669.html

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