‘Stop asking for Facebook passwords’

Asking for information ‘fundamentally wrong,’ says Ontario’s privacy czar
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/23/2012

Memo to employers: Stop asking employees for their Facebook passwords.

That’s the advice from Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner, who introduced a paper on May 3 titled Reference Check: Is Your Boss Watching?

“Passwords are meant to be kept private and I want to be clear that the practice of employers requesting personal passwords from their current or potential future staff is fundamentally wrong,” said Cavoukian.

“Canada’s human rights and privacy laws provide strong protections for job applicants when it comes to improper practices, such as employers requesting personal passwords.”

However, everyone using social media must remain vigilant when it comes to guarding their own personal information, she said.

The paper offers examples of improper practices by employers along with providing context and offering practical tips to protect privacy.

“It is absolutely crucial to remember that anything you post online may stay there forever, in one form or another, so think carefully before you post,” said Cavoukian.

Eighty-six per cent of Canadian Internet users have a Facebook profile, she said, and people should post information “with their eyes wide open and considering the potential risks to their employment — current and future.”

Employers should respect the legal boundaries regarding investigation of any applicant, said Mark Ellis, an employment lawyer at Baker & McKenzie in Toronto.

“While an employer’s review of outward-facing social media pages is proper and valuable due diligence, probing beyond the password-protected wall constitutes unwarranted invasion of privacy.”

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