Recently, Robert Collins, a Maryland resident applying for a position at the Division of Corrections, was told to give up his facebook password to the potential employer. Here is a short video recorded by the ACLU of Collins giving his own account of the incident.
Collins holds that he was informed this information requirement was part of a new policy on social media for the department. However, the spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services denied any policy of the sort when asked by NBC4 in Washington. Collins holds that he was told the information would be used to check for any sort of gang affiliations or illegal activities. Either way, this case leads to many new questions regarding social media and the job search. Is it ethical for employers to check private information on a social media profile? The American Civil Liberties Union took up his case and said it wasn’t.
Many have heard of employers checking out Facebook profiles before hiring; however this is taking it a step further. With his password the employer could have access not only to his basic profile but also to his private messages with other users. They could see his religious and political beliefs, even his sexual orientation, and base their hiring decision on what he had posted about himself. Employers could essentially base their hiring decision on his personal information and private life instead of his skill level and qualifications. If this practice becomes commonplace, then, in theory, companies could end up with less qualified employees.
How? Well, if it comes down to a hiring decision between a well qualified individual with party pictures on Facebook and a lesser skilled individual with a well-mannered profile then the company may decide on the latter as being the “safer” pick. Unfortunately for company, the former applicant (the one with party pictures) may have been the better employee and could have contributed to more productivity and advancements.
Ethically speaking, is it ok for employers to check anything other than public information? Would you ever give up your Facebook password for a job?