Relax – You’ll Never, Ever be Asked For a Facebook Password

It’s one of the hottest and long-standing recent HR stories.

In March, the Associated Press reported on several job seekers being asked their Facebook passwords. Then, it spread like wildfire. New Jersey, among others, introduced a bill to ban the practice.

Relax. You’ll never be asked for your Facebook password when you apply for a job. Here’s why:

It’s against the Facebook Terms of Service — Twice

Sharing your own or requesting someone else’s Facebook login information is against the Facebook Terms of Service. First, it’s a violation of the ToS to share your login information with anyone, as it says in the section on “Registration and Account 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.

And it’s also against the rules to ask for anyone’s login information, as it says in the section on “Safety”:

5. You will not solicit login information or access an account belonging to someone else.

Put simply: neither you nor the person interviewing you can let this happen while remaining on Facebook’s good side.

Almost literally everyone thinks it’s deplorable

… especially the people with power to do something about it. Facebook has strongly come out against it as have several state legislatures (Illinois and Maryland in addition to New Jersey) and the U.S. Department of Justice. You can bet if the practice grows, it will be treated as much more than a nuisance. But it runs a lot deeper than a few powerful hoodies and suits.

The Facebook login debacle has been compared to asking an applicant for the keys to their house. That’s true in another way: everybody has one. You’d never ask someone to take a look around their bedroom because you’d feel violated if someone asked you the same question.

Anyone on Facebook (okay, anyone) who isn’t deeply misguided about the recruiting process will feel the same way. And it shows: public sentiment is hugely on the side of “don’t you even dare ask.”

There’s actually not that much to learn from them

I am a textbook Gen-Y/Millennial social media maestro, and I can tell you that my Facebook account is useless to the kind of recruiter who’d ask me for my login. Useless.

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Know why? Because they’re looking for dirt: profanity, unprofessionalism, and red solo cups. There’s nothing there. And not just because that’s not who I am.

It’s because I grew up with the thing, and I (like everyone else) know that every naughty Facebook post will eventually be seen by the wrong person. Those of us with brains won’t put anything incriminating on Facebook. For those without, there are better ways to find out — like, say, a conversation.

It’s simply not happening that often

And you know why? Because it’s bad practice. Would you refuse to hire someone if they swear occasionally? Drink a glass of wine now and then? So, where do you draw the line between that and un-hireable? A three-drink-per-Facebook limit? You can’t, really.

There’s a reason nearly every story about employers asking for Facebook passwords involves the statistician from New York. That’s because it hasn’t happened many other times. It’s because a few hopelessly out of touch recruiters thought they were being innovative and jumped on the Facebook train.

Using public social media posts to learn more about your candidates is great. You’ll see their interests and see their social media savvy. These are great, relevant pieces of information. But go into the realm of private and protected to glean those extra bits of data, and you’ll lose. Quickly. They lost candidates, lost their organization’s reputation, and learned very little.

So — relax! Your Facebook password is safe.

This article originally appeared on The Resumator Blog.


5 Comments on “Relax – You’ll Never, Ever be Asked For a Facebook Password

  1. I agree, I don’t think this is something that actually happens with regularity.  I am sure there are people out there who heard this idea and thought to themselves it’s a brilliant idea, though.

    My main sticking point is, any company that would cross this personal line with me is one that I have absolutely no desire to work for.  If this is where we set the bar before I’m employed by you, I’m doubtful personal respect is coming afterwards.

    Were I asked to login to any of my accounts as part of an interview I would have no problem saying, “I’m sorry I’ve wasted your time, you are clearly not right for me.”

  2. Wow, that’s some real good “evidence” right there.  So basically, despite the fact that at-will employment means employers have life-or-death power over employees, and despite the fact that there have been documented instances of employers demanding passwords to personal social media accounts, and despite the fact that such demands are not currently illegal, it’s something none of us should worry our pretty little heads about because you, some random bro, think it’s no big deal?  That’s some damn fine journalism.

    1. Clearly, you haven’t been following this topic very closely. As attorney Eric Meyer noted here on TLNT (where we have covered this reported issue of employers “demanding” Facebook passwords closely):

      “While I agree that requiring applicants to furnish social media
      passwords as a condition of employment is, generally, a bad business
      practice, I fear that the firestorm about employers supposedly demanding social media passwords is drastically overblown. The examples of employers — most notably the City of Bozeman, Montana and the Maryland Department of Corrections — who have made this stupid mistake, are old news. Both employers were publicly scrutinized and shamed into stopping.”

      The rush to legislate against demanding Facebook passwords flies in the face of the facts — that is, that very, very few employers have done this, and the few who have found themselves castigated in the media from one end of the country to the other. 

      So, should YOU worry about this? As the post says, “Relax — You’ll Never, Ever be Asked For a Facebook Password.” Given the evidence, that’s not bad advice.

    2. In extensively researching this piece (which I have years of experience doing at one of the world’s most respected news outlets) I found under ten separate incidents which generated thousands upon thousands of news stories. A considerable majority of them (easily over 80%) referenced the same story of the New York statistician.

      I was commenting not on the seriousness of the issue but on the frequency at which it occurs. That is indisputably a tiny number when compared to a litany of considerably more serious violations. Like I said, it’s simply not happening often enough to justify the furor — let alone the admission of legislation in several states to outlaw the practice.

      Should it also be made expressly illegal to ask a job applicant for the keys to their home? Of course not. It’s so obviously wrong — and fruitless — that the practice will simply never become common. There are also several other ways to discourage it, as there are for the practice of asking for Facebook passwords (it’s explicitly against the rules that govern the right to use Facebook, for one).

      Thanks for the comment.

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