Crossing the line? Facebook password requests

By: Susan Finco, President, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

I’m not sure why this controversy over Facebook password requests just exploded onto the national media scene, but it’s really created a firestorm of controversy. More specifically, the controversy is over employers and others asking for access to your Facebook account. Whether or not people realize it, this practice has been going on for some time now.

More than four years ago, when my niece was being recruited by various colleges to be on their gymnastics team, she told me they all checked her Facebook page. Her college coach had access to the pages of the entire team. He routinely did random checks of their accounts.

A number of professional job recruiters I know also ask to see Facebook pages. I personally don’t know of any fellow business owners who ask for passwords, but I do know some of them look at Facebook pages before hiring.

While I find requiring access to be totally out of line, as an employer I can also understand why someone might be tempted to do it (even though there are serious legal issues associated with it). Facebook pages can tell a lot about people and how they conduct themselves and their lives.

The reality is, people’s private lives are rarely private anymore. Part of the point of social media is sharing your life with others. Often that includes the good, the bad and the ugly. And it often includes online “friends” or followers that you don’t personally know. So why is it surprising that an employer, wanting to learn more about a potential employee, would ask to see a Facebook page?

I can hear people saying right about now that it’s their “right” to have a private account. Of course it is. And I defend that right. I also think it’s a good thing that Facebook says it will fight to stop employers from requesting access to private accounts.

However, as I always tell others who ask for advice about what they should or shouldn’t put on their Facebook pages, “Don’t post it if you don’t want the world to see it.” That includes your private accounts. You never know who’s looking.