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ACLU: Facebook password isn't your boss' business

Doug Gross, CNN
The American Civil Liberties Union objects to businesses asking job applicants for their Facebook passwords.
The American Civil Liberties Union objects to businesses asking job applicants for their Facebook passwords.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Some employers are asking for Facebook passwords from job applicants
  • ACLU says the practice, used to screen candidates, is an invasion of privacy
  • A corrections officer says an interviewer logged into his account to check for gang ties
  • Maryland and Illinois are among the states considering laws banning the practice

(CNN) -- Your Facebook password is none of your new boss' business.

That's what the American Civil Liberties Union is saying after reports that employers are increasingly asking for access to job applicants' social-media accounts.

"It's an invasion of privacy for private employers to insist on looking at people's private Facebook pages as a condition of employment or consideration in an application process," attorney Catherine Crump said in a statement from the ACLU. "People are entitled to their private lives."

Recently, multiple cases have come to light in which companies have either asked for passwords to Facebook or required that applicants "friend" people at those companies.

Employers asking for Facebook passwords

Robert Collins of the Baltimore area has said that he was looking to be reinstated to his job as a correctional officer in 2010 when he was asked for his Facebook password.

"I did not want to do it, but because I really needed my job and he implied that this was a condition of recertification, I reluctantly gave him the password," Collins said in February in testimony before the Maryland House of Representatives, which is considering ACLU-backed legislation to block such practices.

"He then proceeded to log in to my account using my private credentials. I asked him, 'Why are you logging on?' He said, 'I am looking through your messages, on your wall and in your photos to make sure you are not a gang member or have any gang affiliation.' "

An Associated Press report this week highlighted Justin Bassett, a New York statistician who said that, during a job interview, the interviewer pulled up his Facebook page and asked for his password. He said he refused.

The ACLU said it's found an increasing number of companies with such policies on Facebook. They say it's more common with public agencies, such as law enforcement.

"You'd be appalled if your employer insisted on opening up your postal mail to see if there was anything of interest inside," Crump said. "It's equally out of bounds for an employer to go on a fishing expedition through a person's private social media account."

On an ACLU Facebook page Thursday, followers were, not surprisingly, overwhelmingly against the concept.

"I consider it a violation of personal privacy," one user wrote. "Will the next step be to request a key to my house?"

It is technically against Facebook's Terms of Service to share a password.

"You will not share your password, (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account," the agreement reads.

In addition to Maryland, lawmakers in Illinois are considering legislation that would ban the practice.

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