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When employers or government requests your Facebook information

April 1, 2012

By U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Free Enterprise Managzine

Recent reports that some businesses and government agencies are asking job applicants to share their personal login information for Facebook is driving a heated debate on online privacy. Online marketing expert Kenneth Wisnefski wrote in the Washington Post that the debate could lead to litigation brought by job seekers and possibly to legislation protecting job applicants’ privacy vis-à-vis social media.

Facebook and other social networks have become a large part of many Americans’ daily lives, and businesses and organizations can gain a better understanding of a job applicant by looking at an applicant’s Facebook profile. But growing privacy concerns have led some social media users to restrict access to their personal information. To get around this, some employers have requested login credentials to view the applicant’s otherwise restricted social media presence. Wisnefski said this could be the tipping point for social media privacy laws.

Demanding login credentials before a job candidate is hired threatens personal privacy and could lead to a legal backlash, jeopardizing the reputation of firms who engage in this practice, argues Wisnefski. Facebook, for its part, has spoken against this practice. Since privacy concerns have repeatedly been raised against the social media giant, Facebook’s position on the employer login issue could help the company reestablish trust with customers.

Lawmakers also appear poised to take action to protect social media privacy. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) asked the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate this practice. Wisnefski wrote, “Eventually, we will continue to see strengthening of support from legislators in Washington that could push for strict privacy laws banning this practice and calling for penalties on agencies that violate social media privacy concerns.”

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