Risky Business: Requesting Access to Job Applicant Facebook Profiles
It's common for employers to look at the public Facebook pages of job applicants. In a new twist, though, some employers want to peek into private Facebook accounts. Some employers have been asking applicants to "friend" them, let them watch while the applicants log into their accounts, or even hand over their Facebook passwords. Others are asking applicants to sign into third-party apps that collect information, such as friend lists, from their profiles.
Both private companies and government agencies have been making these requests, which are especially common in agencies hiring law-enforcement personnel. While employers can't force anyone to give them access to their Facebook accounts, many job applicants feel they have no real choice, especially when jobs are scarce. The employers' practices raise troubling questions about privacy and First Amendment rights, and they could make employers vulnerable to claims of discrimination in hiring.
Federal, state and local laws prohibit employers from discriminating against job applicants on the basis of their membership in certain groups. The EEOC says "As a general rule, the information obtained and requested through the pre-employment process should be limited to those essential for determining if a person is qualified for the job; whereas, information regarding race, sex, national origin, age, and religion are irrelevant in such determinations…. [S]uch inquiries may be used as evidence of an employer's intent to discriminate unless the questions asked can be justified by some business purpose[.] Employers are explicitly prohibited from making pre-employment inquiries about disability."
By looking at private information in applicants' Facebook profiles, employers may gain access to information that goes beyond what is necessary to determine if the applicants are qualified for the job. Profiles often reveal applicants' race, national origin, age, disability and so on — and that could provide the basis for future claims of discrimination in hiring.
On March 23, 2012, Facebook published a statement signed by Erin Egan, Facebook's Chief Privacy Officer, which condemned the practice of requesting access to applicants' accounts, saying "This practice undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends." Egan emphasized that soliciting or sharing a Facebook password is a violation of the Facebook terms of service. "We’ll take action," the statement said, "to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges."
WeComply’s interview compliance training course gives employees the crucial information they need about anti-discrimination laws so they can recognize and appropriately deal with issues that arise during interviews.Categories: Discrimination & Harassment Compliance
Tags: Age and Sex Discrimination, Data Privacy, Employment Discrimination, Interview Discrimination