Who Needs Passwords? People Share More Facebook Info Than They Think

By Eric B. Meyer

Maryland has a new law forbidding employers from demanding that job applicants and employees divulge online passwords. Two weeks ago, the federal government proposed similar legislation. And, last week, news surfaced that Delaware may be placing the same restrictions on employers.

But who needs to demand online passwords, when, according to this report from Consumer Reports, your employees are sharing way more information on Facebook than they realize?

Some of the highlights from the report and a few related tips for employers follow after the jump…

The alarming things people post online

The most alarming statistic, IMHO, is that almost 13 million users said they had never set, or didn’t know about, Facebook’s privacy tools. And 28 percent percent shared all, or almost all, of their wall posts with an audience wider than just their friends.

What kind of stuff are they sharing? Get this — 4.7 million “liked” a Facebook page about health conditions or treatments. For employers who are checking public information on Facebook, be prepared to navigate the Americans with Disabilities Act and Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act minefields.

Other Facebook users flat-out make stuff up.

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Some 25 percent said they falsified information in their profiles to protect their identity. Another 11 percent of households using Facebook said they had trouble last year, ranging from someone using their log-in without permission to being harassed or threatened. So those employers who do conduct social-media background checks should remember that not everything they find online is true. Yeah, go figure.

What employers should consider

Employers should also consider these tips.

  • Eliminate surprises. Let candidates know that you will be vetting them online. And remember that the Fair Credit Reporting Act applies to social-media checks that third-parties conduct on behalf of your business.
  • One person checks; another person makes the employment decisions. That helps cut down on discrimination claims.
  • Give candidates a chance to explain red flags. Because, you know, not everything you find online is true. And there may be a valid explanation for the true stuff.

Regardless of whether you decide to conduct a social-media background check on prospective employee, do remind and educate your current workforce about how to set and maintain Facebook privacy settings so that they are sharing only that which they wish to share, and nothing more.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

You know that scientist in the action movie who has all the right answers if only the government would just pay attention? Eric B. Meyer, Esq. gets companies HR-compliant before the action sequence. Serving clients nationwide, Eric is a Partner at FisherBroyles, LLP, which is the largest full-service, cloud-based law firm in the world, with approximately 210 attorneys in 21 offices nationwide. Eric is also a volunteer EEOC mediator, a paid private mediator, and publisher of The Employer Handbook (www.TheEmployerHandbook.com), which is pretty much the best employment law blog ever. That, and he's been quoted in the British tabloids. #Bucketlist.


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