Some employers asking for job candidate's Facebook passwords

by: Robin Taylor Updated:

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PITTSBURGH - Job interviews are stressful enough. Now companies are prying into your private life, even asking prospective employees to hand over their Facebook passwords.

Facebook officials came out last week saying this is an invasion of privacy, even threatening legal action against companies that ask for a job applicant's password.

Public opinion is clearly in their court, but law may not be. I talked to the legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, and he said as outrageous as this appears, private employers may be able to get away with it.

"To go on a fishing expedition, to troll through an individual's private life is completely inappropriate," said Vic Walczak, ACLU legal director.

Yet, in this tight job market, saying "No" on an interview could be difficult. I asked University of Pittsburgh students what they would do if they were asked for their Facebook password.

"Going as far as to ask, I don't really think that's acceptable. There's a password for a reason," said Erin Bond, a Pitt senior.

"I feel safe showing it to them. I don't know that I would give them my password to it. I would show it to them. I don't have anything to hide from them," said Dan Clayton, a Pitt junior.

Very few employers are asking to see private Facebook pages, but snooping is often part of the screening process.

A survey of hiring managers found 52 percent consult social media sites, while 48 percent do not. Usually they do a Google search to see what comes up.

The ACLU's position is: that it's fine if they're searching for public information, but not if they're searching for private information.

"If you've got something on Facebook that's private, that really should be protected, should be shielded from the employer and they should just mind their own business," said Walczak.

Our WPXI Facebook friends agree.

Nick Musloe wrote, "I would say, 'I will give you my password when you give me your credit cards;' it just won't happen."

Michelle Muhammad countered, "How much money is the job paying? Would you really turn down a $100,000 a year job because they asked for your Facebook password?"

The vast majority of responses were like this one from Lisa Best, "Absolutely not ... It's none of their business!"

Lawmakers in some states are already trying to push through bills that would protect individual's privacy.

While most employers aren't going to cross that line, many screen job applicants using social media and that is likely to continue, so be careful what you post.