Facebook threatens legal action against password-demanding employers

By on March 23, 2012, 11:00 AM

Facebook has updated their Statement of Rights and Responsibilities which now makes it a violation to share or solicit a profile’s password. Furthermore the social network vows to take legal action against offenders when appropriate. The revisions come in light of recent stories regarding potential employers asking job seekers for their Facebook password, an act that many have deemed unlawful and a violation of privacy.

It’s not uncommon for a potential employer to do a little background checking before making a hire. This typically includes calling previous employers, checking with listed references and even running credit checks. More recently, however, employers have been taking to social networks to get a better idea about the person they are considering for hire.

Having a public profile and posting potentially inappropriate or unprofessional content that would be frowned upon by your employer is a decision made on an individual basis. Facebook has implemented multiple privacy features that can effectively shut off profile access to all but those on your friend’s list. But the latest move of requesting a user’s password crosses a whole different line.

In addition to the obvious legal ramifications, Facebook’s chief privacy officer Erin Egan also notes that prospective employers could be setting themselves up for other types of legal trouble.

“We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” said Egan. “But it also may cause problems for the employers that they are not anticipating. For example, if an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don’t hire that person.”

Additionally, the employer or potential employer could find themselves in a bind should they uncover questionable material that, for example, suggests the commission of a crime. Does the employer take that information to the authorities, or do they pretend they never saw it, thus further digging into the legal mess?




User Comments: 24

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Lurker101 said:

Facebook. The site which sells your personal details wholesale, and has constantly made headlines for all the wrong reasons regarding its' ever-changing, questionable privacy policies and storing long since deleted user information, is on the warpath about violations of user privacy?

HA!

Route44 Route44, TechSpot Ambassador, said:

Facebook. The site which sells your personal details wholesale, and has constantly made headlines for all the wrong reasons regarding its' ever-changing, questionable privacy policies and storing long since deleted user information, is on the warpath about violations of user privacy?

HA!

Very well stated.

fimbles fimbles said:

Protecting profit streams, Not users.

Tygerstrike said:

I think this is a good idea on FB part. It completly takes them out of the hiring equation.

Zilpha Zilpha said:

God for them. I'm not a fan of Fakebook's methods when dealing with peoples' information, but at least they are standing up to these employers who think they are entitled to know every minute detail about their employees' personal lives.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Lurker101 said:

Facebook. The site which sells your personal details wholesale, and has constantly made headlines for all the wrong reasons regarding its' ever-changing, questionable privacy policies and storing long since deleted user information, is on the warpath about violations of user privacy?

HA!

We all know it's not really about user privacy. It's about user comfort and profit margins. If users feel their security is tenuous, they may stop (or at least reduce) using Facebook, and that cuts into the company's bottom line.

But, if Facebook pounds its chest and bellows a public war cry on behalf of the little people's privacy (however misguided or disingenuous the statements may be), then the people shall kneel at their feet and thank them for the protection. And they shall continue mindlessly posting evidence of their drunken debauchery and questionable moral choices. And tending Farmville. And liking videos of drunk cats falling on babies. And it shall be good. Amen.

MilwaukeeMike said:

In addition to the obvious legal ramifications, Facebook?s chief privacy officer Erin Egan also notes that prospective employers could be setting themselves up for other types of legal trouble.

What obvious legal ramifications? Facebook can put whatever they want in their little Statement of Rights, and it has no bearing on what's legal or not. She raises a good point about employers opening themselves up to legal ramifications, but it's a moot point.

The things protected from discrimination are obvious things like gender, race, age etc. The only non-obvious one I can think of right now is religion. If someone is denied employment because they're a raging liberal for example, then too bad for them. Political affliation, Sat night party schedule, taste in music or movies, choice of friends etc are all perfectly legal reasons not to hire someone.

NTAPRO NTAPRO said:

>Public profiles

3DCGMODELER 3DCGMODELER said:

Thats why u have 2 facebook accounts one for work and one for personal...

Da Ya think.....

Tygerstrike said:

The legal ramifications are kinda easy to guess. You enter into a contract when you agree to use FB. That contract states clearly the terms of use. If a employer forced someone to give up their FB info, then FB could go after the employer for violating the contract between the individual and FB. It wouldnt be a criminal case but it would definatly be a civil case.

veLa veLa said:

3dcgmodeler said:

Thats why u have 2 facebook accounts one for work and one for personal...

Da Ya think.....

Or just disable your account before applying for jobs.

Guest said:

most people I know have at least 2 accounts on facebook, so they can have different groups. This started before facebook figured out the people like to have different groups (circles) of friends.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Or just disable your account before applying for jobs.
The trouble with that is, employers now expect you to have a Facebook account. If you don't, they want to brand you, "anti-social"!

It works too! I"m anti-social, I don't have a Facebook account.

If fact, this was a fluff topic on the local news, just recently. Basically, it was a guide in how to delude a prospective employer into thinking you're worth hiring.

Y'all brought this on yourselves anyway, for joining up in the first place.

Now Zuckerberg can afford any girl he wants, while the rest of your have a conglomerate corporate nose parked up you collective a***s...

Oh quick, where do I go to join? I want to friend everybody.... ************, right.......

tonylukac said:

What positions do these employers think they're looking for, president of the us? I bet even pres. obama doesn't have to give anyone in washington his password if he has one.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

What positions do these employers think they're looking for, president of the us? I bet even pres. obama doesn't have to give anyone in washington his password if he has one.
It's probably "POTUS"

Guest said:

absolute pure tossers! They need ripped to shreds the plebs

Night Hacker Night Hacker said:

I don't give a shit what reason Facebook is using to do this, it's good news, thanks Facebook. Don't like Facebook? Don't use it and STFU. It's a free service, they make their money by advertising, what do you expect? I get sick of the bullshit comments in here.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I don't give a **** what reason Facebook is using to do this, it's good news, thanks Facebook. Don't like Facebook? Don't use it and STFU. It's a free service, they make their money by advertising, what do you expect? I get sick of the bullshit comments in here.
Aw, are ya.....LL.. Keep telling yourself that matters.... What does "STFU" mean, is that something I should report?

By the why, do you mind if I ask why you are sick of the comments?. Because you don't agree with them? Free speech seems to be in dire peril while you're around, isn't it?

I get sick of the bullshit comments in here.
Oh, the short answer would be, "who cares"?

Guest said:

I love Facebook and Apple. So there!!!

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I love Facebook and Apple. So there!!!
Since you're so obviously lost, just hit the little "house" icon at the top of your browser. You'll be able to find your way back to the rest of your herd from there.....

(Need I remind you to look out for wolves on the way..)?

RH00D RH00D said:

Lurker101 said:

Facebook. The site which sells your personal details wholesale, and has constantly made headlines for all the wrong reasons regarding its' ever-changing, questionable privacy policies and storing long since deleted user information, is on the warpath about violations of user privacy?

HA!

If you're going to troll at least make sure your facts are straight.

If you actually UNDERSTOOD Facebook's business model then you'd understand that them selling user's information is actually BAD for their revenue. Facebook's exclusivity of the information is what makes the information valuable. If they sell it, more people have the information and it becomes less valuable.

Understand so far? Okay now here's the rest. When they advertise to you, Business X will go to Facebook and say "We want to have our ad shown to people in X location that are X age, and are female". Then Facebook merely shows their ad to the appropriate people.

So do you finally understand now why it's bad for Facebook's revenue to sell your information? I hope your brain was able to grasp that.

Guest said:

It makes sense for them to take this position, because their targeted advertising and marketing business model can't work if users don't feel "safe" posting anything and everything to their profiles.

Guest said:

This just reinforces my thoughts about how dangerous and totally unnecessary these type of sites are.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

This just reinforces my thoughts about how dangerous and totally unnecessary these type of sites are.
Nah, Techspot is totally cool, and possibly even worth having around.!

Let that be a lesson to you to avoid the indiscriminate use of pronouns...

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