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Employer Demands Facebook Login From Job Applicants 434

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Alex Madrigal reports in the Atlantic that the ACLU has taken up the case of Maryland corrections officer Robert Collins, who was required to provide his Facebook login and password to the Maryland Division of Corrections during a recertification interview so the interviewer could log on to his account and read not only his postings, but those of his family and friends too. 'We live in a time when national security is the highest priority, but it must be delicately balanced with personal privacy,' says Collins. 'My fellow officers and I should not have to allow the government to view our personal Facebook posts and those of our friends, just to keep our jobs.' The ACLU of Maryland has sent a letter to Public Safety Secretary Gary Maynard (PDF) concerning the Division of Correction's blanket requirement that applicants for employment with the division, as well as current employees undergoing recertification, provide the government with their social media account usernames and personal passwords for use in employee background checks. After three weeks the ACLU has received no response."
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Employer Demands Facebook Login From Job Applicants

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  • by Cjstone ( 1144829 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @02:20PM (#35254626) Homepage
    A lot of people have the opinion that the ACLU is only about shutting down the speech of Christians/Whites/Men/*insert majority group here.* I think this case proves that not to be the case, and demonstrates the good that the ACLU actually does: Protecting personal privacy, freedom of expression, etc. This is a very important case, one that could potentially set a very bad precedent. It's good that there's at least one somewhat powerful organization on the side of personal privacy in this case. I hope groups like the EFF get involved as well.
  • Balance? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @02:21PM (#35254628)

    "We live in a time when national security is the highest priority, but it must be delicately balanced with personal privacy"

    Calling it a delicate balance is a sleazy way of excusing any violations by suggesting that it's such a difficult fine line that nobody could be expected to do the right thing, all the time. There is no delicate balance. Personal privacy and liberty must always trump security, for without privacy and liberty, there's nothing worth securing. There's no point in protecting a bank vault that has already been looted of everything.

    Also. A corrections officer in a prison. Hardly in a position to be trading secrets with Iran or Osama.

  • by BitterOak ( 537666 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @02:34PM (#35254712)

    If I were the employee, I'd use Facebook's activation feature to temporarily remove my account from the system. "What account? Facebook? Don't have one."

    Well, you'd be out of a job if your employer finds a cached copy of your Facebook page in Google, for instance. Would you want to risk that?

  • Re:Balance? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @02:35PM (#35254720) Homepage Journal

    This isn't a case of "delicate balance." It's a sickening abuse.

    He's a corrections officer, not some top-level CIA gumshoe!

  • Breaking the Law (Score:2, Insightful)

    by thsths ( 31372 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @02:39PM (#35254746)

    Terms and Conditions, 4.8: "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."

    So to keep your job, you have to break the law?

    And am I the only one hearing Judas Priest in my head now? :-)

  • by thsths ( 31372 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @02:47PM (#35254780)

    TOS may not be the main problem. I would think that this is also a federal crime "Intentionally accessing a computer without authorization to obtain: ...
    Information from any protected computer if the conduct involves an interstate or foreign communication" and "Knowingly and with the intent to defraud, trafficking in a password or similar information through which a computer may be accessed without authorization" under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

    It is about time that the FBI starts to investigate, and clears up this nest of computer crime! :-)

  • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @02:47PM (#35254782) Homepage Journal
    nah, just do what i do: don't have a fucking facebook account = problem solved
  • False dillema (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @03:09PM (#35254912)
    I was actually thinking it's a false dillema [], starting with the premise that "national security is the highest priority." Sure as hell isn't for me. I just want a functioning public transit system, power, running water, and law and order in my community. Funny how our state got slammed with record levels of snow, and the National Guard couldn't help out...because they're deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Funny how funding for social spending has dried up and all the teenagers in my community are now running around shooting each other (and innocent bystanders) because they have no education, no job, no future. The only people that seem concerned about national security are the people paid to do so or the people who otherwise benefit from such efforts and its rhetoric.
  • by N0Man74 ( 1620447 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @03:11PM (#35254924)

    A lot of people have the opinion that the ACLU is only about shutting down the speech of Christians/Whites/Men/*insert majority group here.

    A lot of people also voluntarily subject themselves to media outlets that flood them with propaganda that tells them that ACLU, liberals, democrats, and muslims all do hate and undermine Christians, Whites, men, and American values.

    A lot of people are clueless, lied to, misinformed, confused or just outright ignorant. Their views frequently don't match reality, but that doesn't stop politicians from catering to their whims.

    As an example of how out of touch with reality some people are, in 2009, a Pew Research Poll that was conducted in order to study perceived media bias actually found that 14% of people though that Fox News was mostly liberal. How could someone even come up with such a conclusion? Are these people so far to the right that even Fox looks liberal to them? Have they just never seen it? Or maybe they believe Fox's own propaganda that all news media is liberal, and assume it means them too.

    However, back to the main point, the ACLU is about protecting people's rights and isn't taking religious sides. They have also defended free speech of Christians when that speech was challenged as being too hostile toward muslims or gays. The ACLU has even sided with those who protested against the ACLU! []

    And sure, a lot of people don't acknowledge this or care, but a lot of people also suffer from confirmation bias []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 19, 2011 @03:25PM (#35255016)

    I think it's plainly obvious that you're not actually responsible for hiring anyone.

  • by MoonBuggy ( 611105 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @03:27PM (#35255034) Journal

    If you're going to take nothing more than the fact that I use a particular communication tool as a reason to write me off as irresponsible, I feel fully justified in declaring you as a pompous, superior, neo-luddite based on nothing more than that single Slashdot post.

    Some of my data doesn't need to be private; I'd be as happy to write "Does anyone want to go to the pub tonight?" in giant red letters on the side of a building as I am to place it on Facebook, if that happened to be the most convenient way to get the message to a large group of my friends. Some of my data does need to be private; that data doesn't go on Facebook at all.

  • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @03:52PM (#35255208)

    If you have a Facebook account, you've already failed my job interview. You can't be trusted to make intelligent decisions with data, so you don't need to work at this organization.

    If you're too close-minded to use the latest in communication tools or too weak-minded not to share anything private, I'd hate to work for you. Also I'd hate to see if the technology you use for your servers is gerbil-powered. It's a tool like anything else. For some people, it's to feed their narcissism. For others, it's just another way to stay in touch. If I have nephews and nieces all over the country, do I rely on snail mail or email (if they bother to write to me personally)? Or do I just rely on FB. Remember, I may not post very often or about anything particularly private about myself but I can keep up with those that do..

  • by Mistlefoot ( 636417 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @03:56PM (#35255236)
    All facebook users agree to NOT Share their password when they access or use Facebook.

    So basically, to work at that correctional facility you MUST show that you are ready, willing and able to break past agreements that you have made and will continue to make in the future (every time you access Facebook).

    Nice to see that they want honest people guarding those who are incarcerated. :P!/terms.php

    Statement of Rights and Responsibilities

    This Statement of Rights and Responsibilities ("Statement") derives from the Facebook Principles, and governs our relationship with users and others who interact with Facebook. By using or accessing Facebook, you agree to this Statement.

    # 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:

          1. You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
          2. You will not create more than one personal profile.
          3. If we disable your account, you will not create another one without our permission.
          4. You will not use your personal profile for your own commercial gain (such as selling your status update to an advertiser).
          5. You will not use Facebook if you are under 13.
          6. You will not use Facebook if you are a convicted sex offender.
          7. You will keep your contact information accurate and up-to-date.
          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.
          9. You will not transfer your account (including any page or application you administer) to anyone without first getting our written permission.
        10. If you select a username for your account we reserve the right to remove or reclaim it if we believe appropriate (such as when a trademark owner complains about a username that does not closely relate to a user's actual name).
  • by mr_walrus ( 410770 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @04:34PM (#35255442)

    the fact you knowingly allow someone else to continue using your name online would make
    me wonder if i really want you working for me. you seem 'irresponsible' in employer speak.

  • by LockeOnLogic ( 723968 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @04:40PM (#35255456)
    So many posts here are about not using facebook, not having facebook ect... This isn't an option for everyone. A huge portion of my friends use facebook with ages that range from pre-pubescent family members to senior citizens. I have friends around the world with whom I'd have minimal communication if not for facebook. Facebook allows me to keep touch with my friends and acquaintances abroad and at home in a single place that they will check often (too often). I deprive myself socially by not having an account. I don't care for it, but so many people I know use it I have no option. I just avoid saying or posting anything anything remotely incriminating.
  • by Cederic ( 9623 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @05:02PM (#35255564) Journal

    Anybody that has facebook also has an email address. What's wrong with using that?

  • by aaaaaaargh! ( 1150173 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @05:05PM (#35255590)

    Na, Geocities was much cooler. It had dark corners and silent backwaters, nobody used his real name, and the company didn't constantly try to steal your data or lock you into their money making scheme.

  • by Cederic ( 9623 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @05:08PM (#35255604) Journal

    This fails to fall under the typical terms of duress

    "Do X or you lose your job" isn't duress?

  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) * on Saturday February 19, 2011 @05:49PM (#35255772)

    They shouldn't. However, they have every (and should have every) -right- to ask.

    I disagree with you, and you're not seeing the bigger picture here.

    In any event, I wouldn't be so sure that they automatically have that right. The fact is, there are many things that an employer cannot ask a job applicant. Religion, sexual orientation, and political affiliation are a few that are generally prohibited. So far as I'm concerned, if a company cannot ask someone if they are straight or gay, they sure as Hell shouldn't be allowed to ask for their Facebook password. Or their email account, or their bank account, or anything else along those lines (and if you think it will stop with social networking, you're naive, I'm afraid.) I'm of the opinion that employers should be barred from any such investigation of candidates: would you want to be judged by the contents of your Facebook page (or the contents of the Facebook pages of your family and friends?) Think about that for a moment, and then tell me that employers should have any rights whatsoever in this regard.

    If your job is so sensitive that your resume and references are insufficient (and I might that that only a tiny, tiny fraction of the job market is so critical) then let them pay for a background check.

    What they are trying to do, when you get right down to it, is an end run around the relevant labor and anti-discrimination laws using information from social networking sites. If you happen to be gay, or a Jehovah's Witness, or a Tea Party member, would you want a potential employer trolling your Facebook account? The law says such attributes are none of their business, and cannot be used to make a hiring decision. But you also know that if that information is made available to employers, they will most certainly use it. But, if it's illegal to do so anyway, why should they have access to it in the first place? Any company that even asks for your social networking account info just tipped you off to the fact that they do not respect their workers. Keep looking.

    You want to know what kind of a worker I am, read my resume, contact my references ... and hire me. Or don't. But keep your sticky paws off my privacy. How I present myself to you, as an employer, what information I choose to give you, is up to me. If you later find out that I lied, you can fire my ass, but you are absolutely not entitled to rifle through my private life, no matter how much you might like to do so.

  • by MoonBuggy ( 611105 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @07:17PM (#35256370) Journal

    Some people are naive/stupid/misguided. Many people use social networking. As such, there is a significant overlap between the two groups, and people therefore do inadvisable things using social media. I don't see it as any causal, or even correlated, relationship - I'd be interested to see any studies to the contrary, but anecdotally I'd say the incidence of 'stupid' on Facebook is roughly the same as in the general population (i.e. depressingly high), meaning it's use as an indicator is negligible.

  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @07:19PM (#35256384) Journal

    Sounds like a crappy way to lose the retirement benefits you earned...

  • by rastoboy29 ( 807168 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @08:57PM (#35256864) Homepage
    People have been tolerating piss tests to get/keep jobs for years, and the inevitable result is that employers reach out for more.

    The thing to do is apply for jobs when you have one (ideally), and refuse piss tests when asked.  If enough people start turning down jobs for that reason, it will go away.

    But America will have to grow some balls, first.
  • by PotatoHead ( 12771 ) <doug@openge[ ]org ['ek.' in gap]> on Sunday February 20, 2011 @03:51AM (#35258316) Homepage Journal

    I personally don't use Facebook because it's unknown where the direction of the company is going to go, and they seem to be very aggressive about their use of the data. Don't trust them. It's that simple.

    I know many people that do. Of those people, I know plenty that had bad experiences, and plenty that had good ones too. I personally wouldn't judge somebody on a Facebook account, because the use cases are all over the map.

    That's what good interview skills are all about. Christ, if they can't do a good read on the person they have DIRECT and IMMEDIATE access to, perhaps it's time to get some education, instead of falling back on shitty things like asking for the keys to people's personal lives.

    To me, this shit is all self-correcting. Anybody that makes a mess of their lives on Facebook will probably only get to work in the fucked up places where that shit doesn't matter. Fine by me. Employers who turn to the Internet in abusive ways to get advantage over their employees are not worth working for either.

    People tend to sort themselves out over time. No worries here.

    The best thing is to just manage your life, and your employment opportunities and think things over before you do them. Shutting some doors that you never, ever plan to walk through isn't too big of a deal. Not sure? Then be conservative about it, until you are. Most of it is all that simple.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.