Bart Perkins: Social media passwords in jeopardy
Computerworld - Passwords are like police dogs: They belong to one person. But the sanctity of passwords is being breached. Some HR staffers and recruiters have asked job candidates for their passwords to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. Hiring managers have asked applicants to log on to social networking sites during interviews in order to review the interviewee's online activities. And some companies have policies that require employees to be Facebook "friends" with their HR liaisons.
Such scrutiny may be acceptable for job hunters who will need high-level government security clearance, but it's an unwarranted invasion of privacy for most people. Even if you're comfortable showing everything in your Facebook account to your grandmother, this type of intrusive demand is insulting and intolerable. Job candidates should fight back, and employers should think about the consequences.
Employers may claim that reviewing social media activity helps them make the right choices in expensive hiring decisions. But they should consider the following potential ramifications:
A culture of mistrust. Few people want to work in an environment that operates on the assumption that everyone is untrustworthy and must be monitored. George Orwell's 1984 was fiction, and it should stay that way.
Brain drain. Some people may be desperate enough for a job to divulge their passwords, but most will not tolerate such a request. Talented people have choices, and they might choose to work elsewhere -- perhaps at your competitor.
Security policy violations. Most organizations' security policies forbid sharing passwords for corporate systems. Demanding job applicants' social media passwords sends a mixed message. Furthermore, it's essentially coercion.
Biased hiring decisions. Posted information may cause interviewers to lose their objectivity. The candidate could be dating someone the interviewer knows, or supporting (or attacking) the interviewer's favorite charity or political organization. Such scenarios could unfairly sway hiring decisions.
Legal limbo. In the U.S., it's illegal to ask job candidates about their race, religion, sexual preference, and so forth. Demanding access to candidates' social media accounts may not technically violate this prohibition, but it certainly violates the spirit of the law because those details can often be inferred from posts and pictures.
Privacy experts are becoming concerned about this abuse of social media. Maryland recently prohibited employers from requesting access to social media accounts of job applicants and current employees. California and Michigan are close behind. Congress is also considering bills banning the practice nationally. Stay tuned.
What's more, Facebook has threatened legal action against employers that ask for passwords. Section 4.8 of the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities states that "you will not share your password, ... let anyone else access your account, or ... jeopardize the security of your account." If Facebook enforces this policy aggressively, employers may discover that many people would rather change jobs than lose their Facebook accounts.
Publicly available information about job candidates is fair game. But responsible organizations will not condone interviewing techniques that violate a person's right to privacy. They should update their corporate security policies and be prepared to enforce appropriate sanctions. Don't let your organization become the first court case.
Bart Perkins is managing partner at Louisville, Ky.-based Leverage Partners, which helps organizations invest well in IT. Contact him at BartPerkins@LeveragePartners.com.
More by Bart Perkins
- Bart Perkins: Pester no more: How to handle the FCC's new rules on robocalls
- Bart Perkins: 3D printing is IT's next big challenge
- Bart Perkins: Benchmarking is great, when it's not a waste
- Bart Perkins: Global standards, meet local constraints
- Bart Perkins: Congratulations on your new supplier. Got a good prenup?
- Bart Perkins: Can't buy you love
- Bart Perkins: Jousting for jobs
- Bart Perkins: Unresponsive suppliers might just not be that into you
- Bart Perkins: Avoiding IT audit nightmares
- Bart Perkins: Beware of self-destructing messaging in the enterprise
Read more about Management in Computerworld's Management Topic Center.
- Best iPhone, iPad Business Apps for 2014
- 14 Tech Conventions You Should Attend in 2014
- 10 Desktop Apps to Power Your Windows PC
- How to Add New Job Skills Without Going Back to School
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
Red Hat Enterprise Linux - The Original Cloud Operating System
Linux adoption is growing against a number of measures, such as the
number of supercomputers that run Linux and the size of the contributing...
- OpenStack Hype vs. Reality: CIO Quick Pulse Open-source architecture can enable IT departments to build infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) clouds running on standard hardware.
- Future Focus: What's Coming in Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) Find out why Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solutions that are truly future-ready must be designed to enable Machine-to-Machine (M2M) capabilities and much more.
- The CIO's Guide to Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) This guide will help those making an EMM platform decision make the best choice for their organization.
- Live Webcast Increasing the Value of Your Reports and Dashboards Learn how incorporating other analytical capabilities such as predictive modeling and visualization can increase the value of your reports and dashboards by providing...
- Testimonial: Cystic Fibrosis Trust Peter Hawkins, the Head of IT for Cystic Fibrosis Trust, discusses the role CommVault's Simpana software platform plays in improving the company's information...
- Increasing the Value of Your Reports and Dashboards Learn how incorporating other analytical capabilities such as predictive modeling and visualization can increase the value of your reports and dashboards by providing... All Management White Papers | Webcasts