A current case that is attempting to define privacy in the era of social media deals with the question of whether your social media account should be visible to current and prospective employers.
The next time you’re asked the typical “name your greatest weakness” interview question, remember it could be much worse: Job seekers applying to Maryland’s Department of Corrections were asked for their Facebook logins and passwords.
Savvy employers already check an applicant’s “digital footprint.” Some companies, like the Maryland Department of Corrections, have gone even further, requesting or even demanding individuals’ social media passwords to look at data not open to the public. Whether this practice is legal remains unclear.
The ACLU filed a written protest in the Maryland case, and the corrections department stopped asking for the information. They then had job candidates log into their Facebook accounts while the hiring manager looked over their shoulder at the Facebook content hidden behind privacy filters.
The officials at the Maryland Department of Corrections said that they did this to make sure job candidates didn’t have any gang affiliations.
The agency told the ACLU it had reviewed the social media accounts of 2,689 applicants and denied employment to seven because of items found on their pages.
One state is banning the practice, and at least 10 other states have bills that have been introduced. A few courts have ruled that such requests violate the federal Stored Communications Act, but the US Supreme Court has not addressed this issue. This legal uncertainty leaves many workers on shaky legal ground.
It’s always good advice to carefully manage the public information posted to your social media sites. For anyone looking to change careers, a review of your privacy settings and friends list is also good advice.
Ensure any sensitive things are limited to your friends (or even a group of just very close friends). It might make sense to have only your basic contact information available to non-friends.
Employers will undoubtedly rely more and more on Internet searches and social networking sites to screen job seekers.
Senators Charles Schumer (New York) and Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), are planning to ask the Department of Justice to investigate whether employers demanding access to Facebook accounts are violating the law.
In the meantime, review your privacy settings, update so that only the things you want to be available can be seen by the general public.