social media

Welcome to our company. What's your Facebook password?

That sentiment is on the rise, thanks to the prevalence of social networking. Employers want to know what you're doing on Facebook, even if it is not in public view, presumably to ensure that you won't be an embarrassment to your new company or organization.

However, there's one teeny little problem with that line of thinking--it's a serious invasion of privacy.

The national ACLU just posted on the matter at the Blog of Rights, where attorney Catherine Crump laid it out in black and white:

"It's an invasion of privacy for private employers to insist on looking at people's private Facebook pages as a condition of employment or consideration in an application process. People are entitled to their private lives. You'd be appalled if your employer insisted on opening up your postal mail to see if there was anything of interest inside. It's equally out of bounds for an employer to go on a fishing expedition through a person's private social media account."

We all know that definitions of "private" and "public" can feel hazy in the ever-shifting online world, and it's smart idea to avoid publicly posting anything that you don't want your boss (or others) to see. But actually giving up your password would allow them to see material you have discreetly kept hidden from public view, as well as personal correspondence.

Without a very good justification (and it's hard to think of one), your employer has no more right to all of that than they have to come look around inside where you live. There are lines--including lines drawn by Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which says, "You will not share your password [or] let anyone else access your account…."--that asking for full access to your profile clearly cross.

If you live or work in Massachusetts and have been put in this situation on the job or in an interview, please call our legal intake line at 617-482-3170, or see our legal inquiries page.