Facebook warns employers against asking for employee passwords

Facebook has threatened to take legal action against employers who demand current staff or prospective employees hand over passwords to their Facebook accounts.

Facebook chief privacy officer Erin Egan released a statement expressing concern that the practice is a breach of user privacy and could open employers up to discrimination lawsuits.

The statement comes after it was revealed an increasing number of employers are asking their employees to hand over Facebook passwords. Even more alarming are reports of interviewers asking for the passwords of prospective employees during the job application process, suggesting they won’t hire candidates based on what they find amongst their personal details.

The Associated Press reported this week that New York statistician Justin Bassett was asked to hand over his Facebook password, when the woman interviewing him for a new job found his Facebook profile was set to private. Bassett refused, and withdrew his application for the role, saying he didn’t want to work for a company that would ask for that kind of information.

Egan warned gaining access to personal employee details on Facebook such as hidden photographs and personal messages is inappropriate and could lead to legal liability for employers.

“As a user, you shouldn’t be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job… That’s why we’ve made it a violation of Facebook’s statement of rights and responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password,” she said.

“It also may cause problems for the employers that they are not anticipating. For example, if an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don’t hire that person,” she added.

The clause in question can be found under Facebook’s registration and account security section, and states “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 jeopardise the security of your account.”

Facebook has warned employers it takes the privacy of its users very seriously and will take legal action against those who continue to breach its terms of service.

You can read Egan’s statement in full, here.

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