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Is It Legal for Employers to Request Facebook Passwords from Job Applicants?

Posted Thursday, October 18, 2012 by Pivotal Law Group

alt textIn the current digital age, many employers are asking job applicants to turn over their Facebook user IDs and passwords as part of the interviewing process. However, this increasing trend has sparked concerns of invasion of privacy, as Facebook pages often contain personal information such as relationship status, political affiliations, hobbies, photos, and personal opinions.

Currently, it is unclear whether the practice of asking for Facebook passwords is legal. If considered analogous to currently permitted employer practices (background checks, PI firms, etc.), it may be considered legal. However, if asking for Facebook passwords during interviews is unduly coercive enough to constitute unauthorized access to electronic information, employers may be violating various federal communication laws. Many states are also contemplating legislation that would preclude employers from asking for social media passwords.

Additionally, putting the question of “legality” aside, there are a slew of other issues to be considered, such as whether asking for Facebook passwords may possibly facilitate illegal discrimination. It is undeniable that Facebook pages often reveal information such as race, religion, ethnicity, etc. If an employer uses this information for hiring purposes, that may be considered illegal discrimination under the law.

Accordingly, there is no straight answer to the question of “legality” in terms of employers asking for Facebook passwords. As such, employers should probably refrain from asking potential applicants for Facebook passwords. This may also help increase the number of potential applicants, as many talented prospective job applicants may be turned away by the idea of having to share their social media passwords. As for employees, it is important to keep in mind that even if an employer does not ask for your Facebook password, they may still be able to view your Facebook page. Therefore, it is always prudent to take proper security measures with your Facebook page.

For more information, please contact Emily Rao at (206) 805-1493.

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