Monday, March 26, 2012

No, Employer, You Can't Root Through Our Private Messages

If in the future I look for another job, this post might turn into a strike against me, but I congratulate Facebook for threatening to sue would be employers who insist job applicants show them the private pages of their Facebook accounts.

According to the Associated Press, some employers are now requiring applicants to hand over Facebook passwords or "friend" HR managers. 
Should employers  be able to access private pages
on job applicants' Facebook accounts?

On Sunday, U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and Richard Blumenthal, D-Ct. asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to see whether such demands for Facebook passwords violate federal law.

Of course, any employer should conduct due diligence when hiring somebody. That means combing through public records,  and looking at anything publicly available to see if the prospective employee is a good match. Anything on public Facebook pages, or obtained through Google, is fair game, as far as I'm concerned.

After all, it's probably a good idea to know if the applicant for Chief Financial Officer has three embezzlement convictions. And it's probably useful to know the prospective nanny has a side business producing child pornography.

It's also necessary for job applicants to tell the truth and be open to questions. That's the way it's always worked. And it should.

But really, going through the private pages of Facebook. What's next? Demanding to see every email you've ever written? Turning over those love letters you wrote in college to the HR Department? Wearing a listening device for the rest of your life so your employer knows what you are doing, where you are and what you're saying all the time?

Sorry, pal.  I'm all for giving 110 percent to your employer, but our personal life is our personal life. Yeah, we'll behave, obey the law and not do anything to hurt the companies we work for. That's the employee's end of the bargain.

Employers: If we want to have legal fun, say what we want, do what we want, go where we want on our own time and our own dime, then we will, and you'd better not make that affect our jobs.

Some conservative and libertarian critics say the government has too much power over the public. Others disagree, but in any even, that's a debate definitely worth having.

Another worthwhile debate is to discuss how much control employers should have over us as well. I know, it varies widely. Many employers are great at respecting boundaries, a few are not. We need to set minimum standards on this.

Let the discussion begin.

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