Friday, March 23, 2012

Facebook Weighs-In On Password Debacle

Employers thought they were being savvy when they began asking prospective employees for their social media passwords, but according to Facebook (the most sought after social media profile by employers) they are violating the law.

That's right. Facebook is defending its users by suggesting that by soliciting password access employers are violating terms of service and personal privacy.

This seems like a strange stance for a company who has made it their business to make as much of the information posted by its users public as possible. The suggestion that a users personal information is public only so far as Facebook is concerned is certainly questionable, but at least they are seeming to come to the defense of their users.

And they have a valid point.

Many people are hungry for work and as new job openings come along they are eager to do whatever they can to secure gainful employment. If that means surrendering their personal right to privacy, so be it. But just because someone is desperate and some unscrupulous employers are willing to exploit this desperation doesn't mean the rest of us should look away, especially the company being wielded as a proverbial weapon.

Look, I understand the importance of knowing as much as you can about your prospective employee before you commit resources necessary to train them, enter them into your system and get them started. I have hired and trained thousands of people for a variety of positions and a good number of them didn't work out as well as I had hoped. But not once did I think I would have been better prepared for them had I been able to snoop around their house, look in their closets or interview family members. In fact, in a good number of those instances I would have been led to believe the employee was a bad risk and not worth my time, when they actually turned out to exceed expectations and become a valued member of the team.

This is because everyone is entitled to a fresh start. Where they have been in the past or where you think they might end up in the future has no bearing on who they are right now. Plus, invading someone's privacy is illegal, immoral and unethical. It brings no value to the table beyond painting a picture. And while a picture may be worth a thousand words, there is no way to know whether or not those words are lies short of putting them to the test.

People who allow this intrusion into their privacy because they "have nothing to hide" are doing a disservice to themselves and their country because they are surrendering rights which others have fought and died to secure for them. And employers who think they are simply protecting their own best interests by asking prospective employees to surrender these rights are not gleaning anything useful about whether or not this employee is a good match for their company, just whether or not they can find a reason to dislike him/her before getting to know them.

Facebook was right to step into this fray and they have done much to counter the image that they do not value their users by defending them on this issue. They have fought long and hard to create a social media community built on trust, and certainly don't want to see someone else come along and spoil that trust.

Before you start thinking about following the lead of some unscrupulous businesses, be certain you are not trampling the Constitution and leaving yourself open to litigation by doing so.

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