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Facebook Invasion by Employers

Big news this week on how employers are using Facebook.  It is like your prospective employer wants to see your underwear. Most people keep their Facebook profiles private, available only to true friends, but employers want to peek before they hire.  In the past week, there have been several articles written about how employers are being intrusive into the Facebook profiles of job applicants. This has gotten to be such a big story, the ACLU and US Senate are now involved.

Employers can already legally look at whatever you allow to show publicly on your Facebook profile.  If you don’t mark it private, it won’t be private!  But, Manuel Valdes of the Associated Press reported this week that applicants have been asked to log in to Facebook on the spot, in an interview, so that the interviewer could see their profile.  Job seekers have also been told to “friend” the HR representative, so the company can see more details.  People who refuse have been shown the door.  Some companies (Sears, for one) use third party applications that can scour a person’s FB pages.  Some companies tell you (online) to log in to their job site using FB, which then gives them access to your profile!

Legal experts, and the ACLU, say this is an illegal invasion of privacy, and they are working to stop it.  The ACLU has been working on this for a few years, but issued a new statement today, reinforcing their position.

An article in Forbes last fall revealed that the vast majority of employers use social networks to investigate employees, with the majority relying on Facebook.

US Senator Richard Blumenthal (Dem-CT) is writing a bill that would prohibit employers from invading people’s privacy as a condition of employment.

By the way, just so you know, Facebook itself says that sharing your password with others is a violation of their own terms of use policies!

Here’s what I think:  Keep your FB private.  I don’t think employers should have the right to intrude in this way, and I hope that public pressure and common sense encourage those aggressive employers to stop this practice.

LinkedIn is for your job-related info, and Facebook is for your personal life.  It is up to you to only “friend” your real friends on FB, and make your business connections on LI.  Many people have blended what / where they post, and if you have made your FB profile public, you invite inappropriate and invasive scrutiny.  There have been stories in the past about people being fired or disciplined at work for something their employer saw on their FB page.  Take care to not have anything damaging on there for employers or prospective employers to see.

You must also realize that you are not in complete control of your FB page!  If you go to a great party on Saturday night, while you are recuperating on Sunday or maybe even Monday, 25 of your friends can comment on how wild and crazy you were, complete with photos they’ve taken and posted!  Do you want your current or future employer to see that?  Some companies are one big happy family, with open attitudes, and some are a bunch of uptight, judgmental asses just waiting to punish the guilty.  Be careful – of who you friend, of using FB to enter other sites, of what you and your friends post.  The world is getting smaller, and employers are willing and able to be invasive, when you might not want that to happen.