Facebook, Lawmaker warns not to ask for passwords

March 24, 2012 12:50:13 AM PDT
State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, wants employers to stop asking employees and job applicants for their passwords to their social media site. This comes after it emerged that job applicants were being asked to prospective employers their Facebook passwords during the interview process.

Most people looking for a job at the Employment Development Office say they are uncomfortable giving hiring managers social media passwords that gives them access to private profiles.

Ashley Clarke says that demand is ridiculous.

"I don't really like anybody in my privacy, in my business at all," Clarke said. "Whatever goes on in my life, it goes on in my life."

But asking for passwords is becoming a trend. With so many people unemployed, companies feel they can be picky and want to know more about their candidate. A Facebook or Twitter account, though, could have unflattering pictures from Vegas or information about recreational drug use.

"It's a form of coercion," UC Davis Professor Andy Jones said.

Desperate job seekers might feel obligated to hand over passwords in exchange for a paycheck.

"When it comes to feeding one's family and taking care of one's family that is always a highest priority and a lot of us would prioritize that over privacy concerns," Jones said.

Yee says that's not right and has introduced legislation that would ban companies and government agencies in California from asking applicants and even current employees for their social media passwords.

"You cannot violate my privacy by saying I need that information," Yee said. "You got to get it some other way, another source."

The practice seems more prevalent in the public sector, especially law enforcement.

"We don't ask for passwords, we ask for access," Sacramento Police Sgt. Andrew Pettit said.

Those who don't ask for passwords ask to be friended on Facebook and denying access raises questions.

"Then that's one of the red flags that we look at," Pettit said. "We want to see why they don't want to share those things with us. Is there something you're hiding?"

Facebook made it clear Friday it does not approve of anyone asking for passwords, telling users, "You should never have to share your password, let anyone access your account, or do anything that might jeopardize the security of your account or violate the privacy of your friends."

Facebook even went as far saying it might help lawmakers ban companies from asking passwords or initiate legal action to protect its users.


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