Employers ask job seekers for Facebook login information

By Lee Kaelin on March 21, 2012, 9:00 AM

Those hunting for jobs are increasingly finding themselves being judged by their profiles on sites like Facebook and Twitter, as employers delve deeper into the publicly accessible information people store online.

For most people, just searching your name on Google usually turns up a treasure trove of potential data, ranging from profiles of websites online, to information about your activities and in some cases details about last week’s antics. While that’s not true of everyone, the vast majority of people do little to secure their personal lives from the public domain, which is certainly not helped by overly complicated privacy settings on social networking sites like Facebook.

It is becoming a common practice for employers to review publically available Facebook profiles during interviews. For Justin Basset, a New York-based Statistician, it went further than that, CBS News reports.

Having gone through the normal formalities during the interview, his interviewer then turned to her computer to search for his Facebook page. Upon realizing the applicant's profile was private, she then asked a stunned Bassett for his login information. He refused, and immediately withdrew his application on the grounds that he wouldn’t work for an employer that would seek such personal information.

"It's akin to requiring someone's house keys," said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former Federal prosecutor who labeled it "an egregious privacy violation."

The situation is similar to that of Robert Collins of Baltimore who was asked for his Facebook password while being interviewed last year when returning to his position as a security guard for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services after a leave of absence. During his interview he was asked for his login information for Facebook so the interviewer could check for possible gang affiliations. Despite being shocked at such a request, he complied, stating that he needed the job to provide for his family and felt he had no choice.

Facebook responded with a brief statement, declaring that the site forbids "anyone from soliciting the login information or accessing an account belonging to someone else." The statement is in reference to section four, point eight of Facebook’s terms of service which reads, "you will not share your password, (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account."

Further to this, according to the report by CBS, the Department of Justice also considers it to be a Federal crime to enter a social networking site in violation of its terms of service, although during a recent congressional testimony, the DOJ said such acts would go unprosecuted.

It is understandable that employers turn to publicly available information in a bid to gain further knowledge about the suitability of applicants, but requesting access to private information beyond what is publicly visible is without a doubt in violation of a person’s rights to privacy. Though it appears these "voluntary" requests are being granted by those desperate to find work despite feeling uneasy about it.

With that in mind, what would you say, and how would you feel if you were asked during an interview?




User Comments: 55

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Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

If a friend asks for my facebook profile i would say no, if i went to an interview and the interviewer asked me for my facebook profile i would also say no, and then question why they "required" my facebook login in the first place?

Company's have been employing people since the word Business was invented, i'm 100% certain facebook is NOT needed in an interview.

Why would company's want to rely on facebook anyway? I could create a new account geared specifically towards a certain job i want and when they ask i can give them those login details?

But then they have a false sense of me? come on, how about we keep the computers out of interviews and base everything on what you actually can see and speak to in the real world?

Guest said:

Just deleted my Facebook account. It is the biggest waste of time of my life. What a ridiculous endeavor.

The fact that they ask for such information is reprehensible.

KG363 KG363 said:

I would respond that it would be against Facebook's Terms of Service to share my password.

Guest said:

I don't even have a facebook account.

Guest said:

I deleted my Facebook in December, glad I did.

Guest said:

Would you let them login to your bank account?

Would you let them login to your personal email account?

Guest said:

So, to clarify;

It is in violation of Facebook T&Cs

It is against US law

It is morally repugnant

It is a violation of privacy

Of course, refusal to provide such information may be considered in a bad light in a job interview regardless of their legal standing to request it.

My recommendation, do what Justin Bassett did and withdraw your application unless you're in desperate need of a job, then things get tricky...

Best thing to do, if you are applying to a company who you suspect might do this, put your profile on full hidden mode (i.e. people can't find you, you have to find them) and tell them you don't have a facebook account. Be careful with this however as many employers are likely to have already had a look for it earlier in the application process.

Guest said:

How can people not grow tired of Facebook? I don't whether or not you are making peanut butter and jam sandwiches; I just don't care.

Nope.

Don't care.

F0ck facebook.

dgoodchild dgoodchild said:

If asked for the password to my facebook (or any other) account I would reply that it's impossible to do so on the grounds that once I give up my password, for all intents and purposes the account is no longer mine.

wcbert said:

What is next?

"I need have access to your online bank accounts to see how you spend your money and if you are debt"

Guest said:

Just deleted my Facebook account. It is the biggest waste of time of my life. What a ridiculous endeavor.

I deleted my Facebook in December, glad I did.

Yawn...

No one cares if you have an account, never had an account or had an account but don't have one now...

So called "social networking" is just a huge scam to get the mindless to share their personal and marketing data so that the likes of zuckerberg can sell it on and make huge profits... it's a scourge and a great example of how every bit of good technology can be turned into something, crude, puerile and essentially worthless.

The fact is that you got suckered, you registered an account and now they have your data (whether you "delete" it or not).

I think some people need to realise that posting your real identity online is an exceptionally dumb thing to do.

p.s. Some of us never visited that site or anything like it in the first place...

Tygerstrike said:

Although it is wrong of them to ask for that guys FB password, its not uncommon for an employer to research a prospective canidate in all AVAILABLE channels. If your information is out there on the web, its a mostly public media. No more or less morally repugnant then a employer looking at your credit score. Not very polite of them but its understandable when you look at how many ppl lie to just get a job. They want to make sure you are going to be around and not rob them blind lol.

slh28 slh28, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Better start creating an alternative account then... make it look like you actually do all the hobbies and interests listed on your CV

Guest said:

This absolutely happens, all the time, for any and all jobs that involve a clearance or other extensive background check.

If you're in a good deal of debt, or have a bad credit rating, you're not going to be employed in a sensitive position.

Guest said:

Just another reason why I have never used Facebook.

Maybe Justin should have asked for the interviewers information so he could decide if this company was good enough for him to work at.

Guest said:

Uh, feel stupid... never had a Facebook account (who would want to look at my ugly mug) ... or a Twitter (always thought twitters were for twits) ... spend my time doing something more productive (well, at least always AS productive) like this posting...

Guest said:

I doubt this is a real story. But for lets just say that it did infact happen. Upon asking for your facebook info, just ask them for their details as well. See their reaction.

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

<--- No facebook, Myspace, etc etc etc. And I am a MCP Technician.

I always get asked why I don't have a facebook account.

Ummm because I am not a saint and I don't want people knowing what I do.

Facebook swings both ways, and its damaging careers of good people.

anguis said:

My password would not even give them access to my account. If you actually use facebook's security measures, you can prevent them from gaining access with or without your password. They would also need my cellphone, my cellphone password, and my text message encryption passphrase in order to actually access my facebook account. Good luck with that!

That said, if I were asked to provide my facebook username and password in an interview, I would respond by saying "You are asking me to knowingly and willfully commit a federal crime - I refuse to comply. If any interviewees complied with this request, you and your company could be charged as well for being an accessory to the crime. If this is held against me in any way, my lawyer will become involved."

lipe123 said:

Wow thats pretty out there, what about asking for the applicants cellphone to look at the call log, txt messages and pictures taken? It's just the next logical step!

Imagine you tell the interviewer "sure show me yours and I'll show you mine" :P

Marnomancer Marnomancer said:

What's next?

Those hunting for jobs are increasingly finding themselves being judged by their profiles on sites like Facebook and Twitter, as employers delve deeper into the publicly accessible information people store...

Read the whole story

As if NYPD wasn't enough

Wow thats pretty out there, what about asking for the applicants cellphone to look at the call log, txt messages and pictures taken? It's just the next logical step!

Imagine you tell the interviewer "sure show me yours and I'll show you mine" :P

If you could do that :p

My password would not even give them access to my account. If you actually use facebook's security measures, you can prevent them from gaining access with or without your password. They would also need my cellphone, my cellphone password, and my text message encryption passphrase in order to actually access my facebook account. Good luck with that!

That said, if I were asked to provide my facebook username and password in an interview, I would respond by saying "You are asking me to knowingly and willfully commit a federal crime - I refuse to comply. If any interviewees complied with this request, you and your company could be charged as well for being an accessory to the crime. If this is held against me in any way, my lawyer will become involved."

Well said!

BTW, what's that "txt message passphrase" you're talking about? I haven't noticed that option as of 21/3/2012.

But that would be a bit paranoid in practical purpose, IMHO. Still, with our beloved governments extremely intrigued by its citizens' private lives, nothing feels enough nowadays.

Guest said:

No company should be allowed to ask anything like that. Only thing they should be legally allowed to obtain is whats in your credit file or publicly available.

BUT...If an interviewer was to ask for something like that....

Play it smart...Say you don't use facebook...They then say why does it show you here...Be like I don't know...must of made one years ago...don't have access to it anymore. Then you can decide if you want to work at a company like that....but if you say no...You just lost the job. Sometimes you have to tell them what they want to hear..I have a friend that says 100% whats on her mind and never bends the truth..And she has a real hard time getting any job and they run all over her...You have to have some jobs smarts to get anywhere now a days.

Marnomancer Marnomancer said:

BUT...If an interviewer was to ask for something like that....

Play it smart...Say you don't use facebook...They then say why does it show you here...Be like I don't know...must of made one years ago...don't have access to it anymore. Then you can decide if you want to work at a company like that....but if you say no...You just lost the job. Sometimes you have to tell them what they want to hear..I have a friend that says 100% whats on her mind and never bends the truth..And she has a real hard time getting any job and they run all over her...You have to have some jobs smarts to get anywhere now a days.

That, or...

I was asked,

"Why should we give you this job?"

I answered,

"Why not?"

I was replied with a smile,

"You're hired."

Don't necessarily have to be cautious or dodgy.

But one for all, asking something like that would be "trespassing on privacy" IMO. Not that we have much of it now.

p51d007 said:

Hey, why don't I just forward my email to my employer along with the PIN number for my back account.

Screw this...I wouldn't work for anyone that had this much control.

Eddo22 said:

Guest said:

No company should be allowed to ask anything like that. Only thing they should be legally allowed to obtain is whats in your credit file or publicly available.

BUT...If an interviewer was to ask for something like that....

Play it smart...Say you don't use facebook...They then say why does it show you here...Be like I don't know...must of made one years ago...don't have access to it anymore. Then you can decide if you want to work at a company like that....but if you say no...You just lost the job. Sometimes you have to tell them what they want to hear..I have a friend that says 100% whats on her mind and never bends the truth..And she has a real hard time getting any job and they run all over her...You have to have some jobs smarts to get anywhere now a days.

That may or may not work. They could catch you in a lie if they decided to google your name.

I wouldn't give it to them.

MilwaukeeMike said:

wow.. a ton of comments with people explaining why they're right about something. We sure are smarter then those mean 'ol employers aren't we. Few things are as annoying as listning to someone explain why they're right when no one is arguing with them.

Maybe they just asked to see how'd you react? That's why i would ask someone. So they know not to hire the ones who completely freak out.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I'd walk out of any interview where the employer started asking me for personal account passwords no matter what the media. That's not an employer I'd be interested in developing a career with.

Timonius Timonius said:

MilwaukeeMike said:

Maybe they just asked to see how'd you react? That's why i would ask someone. So they know not to hire the ones who completely freak out.

Valid point there. But is it still right to even ask the question?

fimbles fimbles said:

I personally would not ask.

Just add them as a friend,

Its been proven that most facebook people will accept the invite just to add another random face to their friends list for bragging rights.

Im not on facebook, But i find dummy accounts and this approach works wonders!

Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I don't have a facebook account, but if an employer asked for my login info for any website, I'd flat out refuse, and probably end up suing them if they refused to hire me based on me not relinquishing my private information.

Tygerstrike said:

@Wendig0

They would just say you were not qualified for the position. You could attempt to sue them but they pretty much got you by the short hairs. You would have to prove they asked for that information via some form of recording device. Otherwise its your word against theirs. And they prolly have more Lawyers then the common person so its hardly worth your time.

matrix86 matrix86 said:

If they ask, simply say, "I'm sorry, but under Section 4 of the Facebook Terms and Conditions policy, I am unable to disclose account information such as username and password, and cannot grant anyone access to my account. I take policies very seriously. I am also not legally bound to give out such information under state and federal law. I hope this does not affect my potential employment here at this company."

For anyone who is curious:

Facebook Terms

4. Registration and Security

...8. You will not share your password, (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.

UnknownSky said:

Facebook = Personal.

Linked In = Professional.

If I were going for a network security/tech/desktop support or any position of the sort and they asked me for my login information...I would simply use my own computer and only give them viewing access, no keyboard, mouse or any other form of control. They wouldn't even be allowed to see the screen when I went to login. They could either accept those terms for their request or have a nice day.

Guest said:

This thing ends when a group of "prospective employees" file a CAL for discrimination. After the settlement precedent is set. No more of the FB garbage from employers.

Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Tygerstrike said:

@Wendig0

They would just say you were not qualified for the position. You could attempt to sue them but they pretty much got you by the short hairs. You would have to prove they asked for that information via some form of recording device. Otherwise its your word against theirs. And they prolly have more Lawyers then the common person so its hardly worth your time.

So you're saying that if you're discriminated against that you shouldn't even try, simply because it's your word against theirs, and they have more lawyers? Sounds pretty spineless to me.

Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

matrix86 said:

If they ask, simply say, "I'm sorry, but under Section 4 of the Facebook Terms and Conditions policy, I am unable to disclose account information such as username and password, and cannot grant anyone access to my account. I take policies very seriously. I am also not legally bound to give out such information under state and federal law. I hope this does not affect my potential employment here at this company."

For anyone who is curious:

Facebook Terms

4. Registration and Security

...8. You will not share your password, (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.

Good call

Tygerstrike said:

@Wendig0

No im saying its not worth the time if you dont have proof. It has nothing to do with a spine. In court its what you can prove that wins your case. If youre job hunting and you get ACTUAL discrimination as defined by any states revised statutes then go for it. But you still have to prove you were discriminated against. Hence why I said "Proof".

And if your looking for a job 10 to 1 you wont have a Lawyer on retainer. If you do more power to you.

treetops treetops said:

Thats like asking for mail, email and phone conversations. If they want to look up my name on the web feel free but I am not handing over my personal communications. Whats next they want your bank account number and password so they can see your transactions? I'm surprised this isn't against the law. What if my girlfriend or wife sends me naked photo's on FB?

Come to think of it they aren't even allowed to ask your age in a interview or on application.... What are they going to do on fb see your age, medical details (maybe you message your friends about em), sexual orientation (likely), marital status and a plethora of other information likely not allowed to be asked about in a interview.

Darth Shiv Darth Shiv said:

If they ask, simply say, "I'm sorry, but under Section 4 of the Facebook Terms and Conditions policy, I am unable to disclose account information such as username and password, and cannot grant anyone access to my account. I take policies very seriously. I am also not legally bound to give out such information under state and federal law. I hope this does not affect my potential employment here at this company."

For anyone who is curious:

Facebook Terms

4. Registration and Security

...8. You will not share your password, (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.

Exactly...

Guest said:

Wait people don't want to share their private information? That's how Facebook makes money, selling your private information. You might as well let your possibly soon to be employer access your Facebook, that would be just one more stranger viewing your private information... at least you might get a job.

hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

You can easily remove yourself from a public search with one check box.

Zen Zen, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Stuff like this makes me feel "oh so good" that I own and operate my own company! I don't need to provide my employer with my Facebook user name and password.....lol.....I think the boss already has it!, whoa wait I'm the boss!

Employee Zen, this is boss Zen, I require your Facebook information to keep your job, I need to make sure your not talking smack about me behind my back, boss Zen, this is employee Zen, take this job and shove it, you ain't getting the information!

Guest said:

Everyone,

It is important to resist this trend. Did you ever read the novel "1984" by George Orwell?

You owe it to yourself to do so, if you haven't.

Orwell might have been off on the year, but he certainly saw the trend of what could happen

when technology got to the point where it is now and beyond.

An internet-connected world where you no longer can shut the computer off.

Where you are being watched and recorded 24/7.

Where your freedom is gone. Where disagreement marked you as a terrorist.

All of us must face this now. Because those who say that the new laws that allow the government

to arrest you US citizen or not, will not be used, may be telling the truth FOR THEMSELVES.

But mark my word someone will come to power who will use those tools, because they are there.

So we must do all that we can, not to leave a world where each of us is a slave to the technology that was meant to free us.

Be vigilant, be firm, do not hate your enemies, but do not bow to them either.

Guest said:

Whats next? Search warrants for your home and underwear drawer?

Over zealous HR and other management are the cause...and believe they have the advantage over prospective employees.

After many years in IT and working closely with HR and legal, know that companies can not legally proactively search to find cause. This is abuse and harassment of another form. If investigating an employee issue as a result of a problem, is a different thing and is justified.

I had to push HR back many times for their quests to dig up dirt....and now force them to have our legal team sign off on any requests to filter out the HR groups aggressive attacks on employees.

If a company has concerns about employee activity, they should purchase filters/controls to install to restrict access to these sites rather than using disciplinary actions against their staff.

Personally, I don't have any of these social accounts or interest in them, as from my IT perspective is exposing your yourself. Seems like most people don't have a concept of protecting themselves and set up these accounts with no idea what they expose.

Guest said:

It's really simple people....deactivate your account before job searching. Reactivate when in safe zone and take advantage of what little FB security there is by setting security up as only friends of friends can search and find you. Never give employer the same email address you use for FB.

SNGX1275 SNGX1275, TS Forces Special, said:

The simple answer is:

If you ask this question, you aren't the type of company I want to work for.

Guest said:

Here is a hard question.. If you go through the hire process and get to the point at which they request access to any private accounts, Facebook or more, and refuse, can you lose unemployment benefits because of something like "refusing to cooperate with a potential employer during the hire process?"

Guest said:

I'd ask for Facebook account information for all directors and officers and the interviewer. "Given corporate malfeasance, workplace harassment and bullying, I think I should know the people I would be potentially working for."

I think I'll also set up a dummy facebook account. Basically empty.

By the way, they ask you to log in - thereby bypassing the Facebook T&Cs and other notional barriers.

Of course, in certain jurisdictions, it is illegal to ask for religious affiliation/beliefs, age, sexual preference, marital status et cetera - all/most of which the interviewer is indirectly asking for.

Guest said:

Soon, many who have plastered every nuance of their personal life on social media will be subject to a nefarious use of such information.

Information on the internet lives forever. Seemingly innocent pictures or words mean different things to different people.

In the end, some people will find their use of social media to be one of the biggest regrets in their life.

Benny26 Benny26, TechSpot Paladin, said:

The simple answer is:

If you ask this question, you aren't the type of company I want to work for.

+1

If there's one thing that could seriously put me off in a job interview it would be a question like this.

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