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Need a Job? They’ll Need Your Facebook Login and Password First

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By Cooper Fleishman on March 20, 2012

If you thought checking off your race on job applications felt invasive, imagine handing over your Facebook login and password to prospective employers. A Tuesday Associated Press report profiled several people who sat down for job interviews and had HR representatives ask to log in and snoop around. Right there in front of them!

When Justin Bassett interviewed for a new job, he expected the usual questions about experience and references. So he was astonished when the interviewer asked for something else: his Facebook username and password.


Back in 2010, Robert Collins was returning to his job as a security guard at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services after taking a leave following his mother’s death. During a reinstatement interview, he was asked for his login and password, purportedly so the agency could check for any gang affiliations. He was stunned by the request but complied.

“I needed my job to feed my family. I had to,” he recalled.

We don’t know Collins’ skin color, but let’s be honest: For what reason other than his race or socioeconomic status would an employer screen him for gang affiliations? If so, it’s sickening: Not only are these screenings incredibly invasive, they’re also compromising the integrity of race-blind hiring.

Lori Andrews, law professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, argues, “Volunteering is coercion if you need a job.” A decent parallel is the Virginia bill that would mandate trans-vaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions: Requiring women to undergo an extremely invasive procedure in order to obtain a completely legal abortion is equally egregious — in this case, rape by coercion.

In New York, Bassett considered himself lucky that he was able to turn down the consulting gig at a lobbying firm. “I think asking for account login credentials is regressive,” he said. “If you need to put food on the table for your three kids, you can’t afford to stand up for your belief.”

Future employers of mine: Feel free to look at any information I have made public on Facebook. I have done so for a reason. But private pictures I’ve shared with close friends only (most likely because there are funny costumes or St. Ides involved) should have no bearing on my job prospects. We’re entitled to walk into interviews confident that things like whom we sleep with, our taste in idiotic pop culture and the appearance (and skin color, for Chrissake) of our friends will never determine our employment.

Our private moments of idiocy ought to be kept secure, and whether Facebook is the best place for their safe keeping is not up to our employers to decide. What happened to an old-fashioned background check? Pre-employment Facebook checks are like holding an open house before you’ve had a chance to clean up — oh, and you’re duct-taped to your car outside.


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