Six Lines

Facebook Logins and Job Interviews

Posted by Aaron Massey on 15 Mar 2011.

Robert Collins was applying for a job with the Maryland Department of Corrections. As a part of that job he was asked to provide his Facebook login and password. Obviously, this raises some serious privacy concerns, and the ACLU of Maryland got involved. You can read some of the coverage from the Atlantic, or you can read the ACLU’s letter directly.

Although this is primarily a legal story, I wanted to focus on this tidbit from the article in the Atlantic:

The ACLU calls this policy “a frightening and illegal invasion of privacy” and I can’t say that I disagree. Keep in mind that this isn’t looking at what you’ve posted to a public Twitter account; the government agency here could look through private Facebook messages, which seems a lot like reading through your mail, paper or digital.

There’s an important distinction between a public feed (like Twitter) and a private feed (like Facebook), but the bigger picture is that both of these web services are monocultures. They are single, centralized points of failure. No government employer should ask for a Facebook username and login, but asking for the username and password to “a website” feels different than asking for every letter you’ve sent to your friends, every picture you’ve shared with your family, and a calendar of every event you’ve attended in the last year. Moreover, many millions of people have Facebook accounts, and they feel free sharing information with co-workers they’ve “friended” through the site. All the employer has to do is get that one bit of access and they could have all the information they need on all their employees.

If you’re interested in exploring this topic in more detail, I highly recommend Delete by Victor Mayer-Schönberger. He has some examples of employees who have lost their jobs because of information that was shared or available online.