Facebook warns employers not to ask for passwords

Could lead to ‘unanticipated legal liability’
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 03/23/2012

Facebook is warning employers they should not ask potential candidates for their login and password information.

In recent months, Facebook has seen a “distressing increase” of reports about employers seeking access to potential candidate’s profiles or personal information, said Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer.

“This practice undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends,” Egan wrote in a post on the site. “It also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability.”

If an employer accesses someone’s Facebook profile and sees he is a member of a protected group (such as over a certain age), the employer may open itself up to claims of discrimination if it does not hire that person, said Egan.

Employers may also not have the proper policies and training for reviewers to handle private information, she said. If they don’t, the employer may assume liability for the protection of the information they have seen or for knowing what responsibilities may arise based on different types of information (such as if the information suggests the commission of a crime), according to Egan.

Facebook has made sharing or soliciting a password a violation of its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

“We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges,” said Egan.

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