Monday, April 2, 2012

Don't let employers violate your online privacy rights

Attempts by companies to require relinquishing of Facebook passwords violates fundamental American principles

Should employers be allowed to ask for your Facebook password? Should they make hiring decisions based on a potential employee's preference to keep their information private? That is, should they only hire those that agree to open up their personal (and private) online lives?

A new trend for many companies requires just that. Many employers are now asking that any new hires turn over their social media passwords, making their hiring contingent on whether they comply or not. In our own neck of the woods, Madison Chief of Police Noble Wray drew national attention when he announced he utilizes one-time, voluntary "peeks" at a person's Facebook information during the interview process.

The practice has serious privacy concerns, to say the least. Democrats in Congress sought to nip the idea right away by offering up an amendment that would change FCC rules limiting what employers could ask for when it came to invasion of social media.

The measure was soundly defeated on a mostly partisan basis (only one Republican voted in favor of it). Among those that voted against the measure protecting individuals' passwords was Wisconsin's Republican bloc of Congressmen, Reps. Sensenbrenner, Petri, Duffy, Ribble and Ryan.

While stating the affirmative -- that these men WANT companies to have your information and passwords -- would certainly go a bit too far, by voting against the amendment Wisconsin Republicans are making it clear: businesses should have this right, at least in their minds.

The Unlawful Access to Stored Communications Act already makes it criminal to access information of another person's online communications without their consent, which includes social media interactions. It doesn't state that employers, however, cannot require their employees to consent to such practices, or that hiring decisions can't be determined on whether such information is "voluntarily" handed over.

But such moves would be a direct violation of privacy. We'd never consent to allowing companies to base hiring decisions on things like having a spare key to our house or reading our mail after we've opened it. Likewise, we shouldn't have to let a good job get away because we'd like to keep our social and work lives separate from another.

Requiring such coercive means to get a potential hire's background information is wrong, and frankly un-American. We've always prided ourselves on having protections to our privacy, requiring warrants for law enforcement to enter our homes or read our personal papers. We shouldn't ignore this inherent right just because a private organization wants to disregard it themselves.

Personal, private information is just that -- information reserved for that person, and that person alone. No company should compel their workers or applicants to hand any of it over.

Sign a petition to limit what employers can ask of you regarding your social media. Employers Shouldn't Get Employees' Social Networking Passwords!

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