Can Employers Demand Facebook Passwords?

With reports that colleges and now even companies are asking applicants to provide social media account information, can employers really demand to be given your Facebook password?

As a job seeker, you already know how important it is to maintain a clean social media profile, purging inappropriate photos and comments from your Facebook account and other online locations whenever possible.

Now it’s being reported that some colleges and employers are requiring applicants to provide the passwords to their Facebook accounts or “friend” a designated individual within the organization to allow access to protected online content.

According to MSNBC’s Red Tape Chronicles blog, the Maryland Department of Corrections is asking job applicants to log into their Facebook profile in the presence of the interviewer, giving the institution a “behind the scenes” look into potential hires’ profile information, photos, status updates and friends lists before they extend a job offer.

But can an employer actually require applicants to provide access to their Facebook profile and other protected online social media content?

The answer is unambiguously no – it’s not within any employer’s legal rights to demand access to an applicant’s Facebook profile as a condition of employment.

MSNBC quotes Facebook spokesperson Frederic Wolens saying that these type of requirements are a clear violation of the site’s terms of service: “Under our terms, only the holder of the email address and password is considered the Facebook account owner. We also prohibit anyone from soliciting the login information or accessing an account belonging to someone else,” says Wolens.

To circumvent restrictions, some employers have made Facebook access voluntary. But many people see this as simply a more legally defensible way of gaining access to what was once considered confidential, personal information.

Bottom line: Employers can’t force you to provide access to protected information on your Facebook account. But by maintaining a clean profile, you can eliminate the risk and possibly even gain an edge over applicants who can’t afford to offer employers a peek into their online social lives.


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