By Sarah Chandler
According to a recent Associated Press article, companies around the country have started requiring job applicants to submit their Facebook passwords to ensure that potential employees’ private Facebook profiles can be viewed by the company. Employers should value people’s privacy and treat employees with respect because it will ultimately foster stronger relationships and better business results. The point of Facebook is to connect with friends, not to determine employment.
Facebook has condemned this employment process and has threatened legal action. But despite Facebook’s potential involvement, this issue has sparked a controversial debate about the ways in which Facebook should be used.
For example, legislators in Maryland have already begun implementing laws banning this practice. Concern over this issue is justified, and because of privacy, safety and moral concerns, action should be taken to prevent this kind of invasion of privacy from occurring.
Requiring applicants’ Facebook passwords is wrong because it tips the balance of power in favor of employers. People should be allowed to determine for themselves what personal information is shared with their would-be employers. This is especially important during the job-seeking process, when most of the power is possessed by the companies. Applicants are already forced to jump through hoops and undergo intensive scrutiny with applications and interviews; they should not have to surrender to any other requirements by employers. This is especially true during the current recession when many employees are more likely to feel compelled to comply with demands made by employers because the applicants are desperate for jobs.
Furthermore, personal information such as religion, race, sexuality and political views are often displayed on Facebook profiles. These details should not determine or even influence whether an applicant is hired, and knowing this information may cause an employer to make a prejudiced decision based upon personal bias or intolerance. In fact, such discrimination in the workplace is supposed to be protected under the Equal Opportunity Act.
There are more effective methods of screening applicants if the concern is about vetting potential employees. Asking better questions during interviews and carefully appraising all information submitted should be enough for employers to make informed decisions about whether or not to hire people.