Employers have begun asking for Facebook passwords of potential employees as part of the job application process. The depressed job market has forced many to consider or consent to this privacy tradeoff. This invites. This invites identity theft.
Facebook Knows You Inside Out
Even if you are not an active poster, your account contains a massive amount of information about you and your friends. This information is already being mined by data collectors to target ads, recommend friends, and predict your behaviors. It is hard to avoid using Facebook since it has become a standard communication channel for friends, classmates, and family.
Discretion for Naught
Most know it is a bad idea to say things unedited online. Facebook and other social media companies walk a line between collecting data and serving the needs of their users. Over time, they have instituted policies that allow you to choose what is made public or selectively choose your audience. Although these controls can sometimes be difficult to use and are arbitrarily changed with little notice, most feel they provide an acceptable degree of privacy.
Sharing Your Password Is an Invitation for Identity Theft
Your password maintains that gateway of privacy. Many use the same password everywhere online, including Facebook, shopping sites, and online banking. This provides an easy path to stealing your identity. Even if you have been wise enough to keep separate passwords, though, Facebook holds valuable data for an identity thief. This information can be screen-captured and saved. Even if you do not get the job and promptly change your password, you have already compromised your security.
More Reasons Sharing Your Password Is a Bad Idea
Even taking identity theft out of the equation, sharing your password is an awful idea. It is a blatant abuse of the employer’s power before you are even an employee. It is an encroachment on your privacy that is completely unnecessary for all but perhaps the most security-critical jobs. Finally, it sets a horrible precedent in how you value your own privacy. Regaining that privacy will be unlikely when it has been trivialized by being handed over in a job interview.
No, You May Not Have My Password
Fortunately, job applicants are resisting employer pressure for their passwords for now. Facebook has threatened to sue employers who ask for passwords. Despite that, employers continue looking for new ways to peek into their employees’ lives, and schools have followed suit. Privacy is no longer assumed. Some are limiting usage of Facebook or finding other outlets for truly private communications. It is up to individuals to protect their privacy, and employers are determined to make that a much harder process.
Steven Farrell is the administrator of ReversePhoneLookup.org, a site where you can perform a free reverse phone lookup for as little as $1.
You can also learn more about Facebook security in this 2009 PCWorld article.