Facebook Snooping: Steer Your Staffing Agency Clear Of the Stupidity

As CMO for a large staffing software company, I am fully aware of the need to vet job prospects.  No company is going to the last stages of interviewing without background checks and personality tests.  But requiring candidates to turn over their Facebook passwords? Absolutely over the line – for a number of reasons:

1.    Employers and staffing agencies alike will be flirting with discrimination lawsuits. 
While everyone is in an uproar about having to share personal information with potential employers in the form of photos, updates and friends, both employers and staffing agencies need to realize that other information on people’s profiles put them in a protected anti-discrimination class, such as race, gender, age and religion.

If a candidate makes it down to the wire of the interview process and then doesn’t get the job after sharing Facebook information, they’d have the makings of a discrimination suit.  Who’s to say that candidate didn’t get hired – not because of their photos or friends – but because of their religion?

2.    There must be a separation between private and public. 
It’s just plain wrong for corporations to require a look at an applicant’s personal Facebook page, regardless if it involves asking for their password or looking over their shoulder.  Just as with the separation of “church and state,” there needs to be a similar division between “public and private” in any democratic society.

Employer’s do have the right to determine if an individual will be suited to the corporate culture, and in the case of governmental agencies, to fit the personnel restrictions for prisons or law enforcement (i.e., no gang affiliations, etc.), but they do not have the right to snoop through a person’s personal, private information.  That’s akin to opening a job prospect’s mail.

3.    Facebook forbids the practice. 
Amidst all the fuss over this topic, Facebook came out with a statement establishing their position.  “As a user, you shouldn’t be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job. And as the friend of a user, you shouldn’t have to worry that your private information or communications will be revealed to someone you don’t know and didn’t intend to share with just because that user is looking for a job. That’s why we’ve made it a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password.”

It’s important to note that not only does the network believe its bad internet protocol to share passwords; it’s also a huge security risk.

4.    Facebook snooping may soon be illegal.
Not surprisingly, the noise surrounding Facebook snooping has generated interest in the legislative arena, as well.  Just last week Rep. Chuck Schumer from New York and Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut called for investigations into the matter by the Justice Department and the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.

The investigation will explore whether this practice violates the Stored Communications Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Both acts prohibit intentional access to electronic information and computer access without authorization.

Schumer summed up his concern by saying, “In an age where more and more of our personal information — and our private social interactions — are online, it is vital that all individuals be allowed to determine for themselves what personal information they want to make public and protect personal information from their would-be employers. This is especially important during the job-seeking process, when all the power is on one side of the fence.”

Ultimate, any employer, recruiter or staffing agency that engages in this dangerous behavior is putting itself in a negative position when it comes to future hiring – because honestly – the best candidates won’t put up with this kind of nonsense.

I’m interested to know how other staffing or recruiting professionals feel about this topic.  Please feel free to share your opinion via a comment below.

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