by Mary Kate Hallahan, VP, Human Resource Manager
Should your Facebook password be fair game for your employer? If you care anything about your privacy and the value you bring as an employee, the answer is no.
The expectation of privacy in a digital world is sketchy at best – we’re a culture of over-share, with many people posting every detail of their lives online. It has become natural to meet someone, whether it’s a vendor, job candidate or colleague and hit the search engines and social networking sites to see what they look like and what they post.
Even as informal background checks become the norm, employers need to tread carefully and employees shouldn’t be afraid to take a stance toward protecting their privacy. For employers, there are legal and cultural reasons to think twice about asking employees for their password.
From a legal perspective, organizations expose themselves to risk by asking for access to personal information. For example, if an employee sends a message to six of her friends that she is expecting, and her employer passes her up for a promotion, she may be able to prove discrimination in court.
From a cultural perspective, it’s like telling employees their privacy is meaningless. Even requesting that employees “friend” their manager crosses the line between personal and professional, but an employer asking for an employee’s Facebook password is equivalent to asking for house keys or to peek in their medicine cabinet.
It’s true that the actions of employees in and out of the office are more transparent today and it has created new concerns. But, if employees are trusted to interact with customers or business partners on behalf of the business in the real world, they need to be trusted online. After all, there are no great companies that were built on a culture of fear.
If you’ve hired the right talent then they’ve proven that they exhibit the company’s values and behaviors. That also gives testament to the ability of hiring managers to use traditional screening support – resume review, interviews, reference checks, etc. — to make good hires.
Responsible users take time to lock down their profiles, including their personal Facebook page, and they have a right to privacy when it comes to personal property. Plus, employees who stick to their guns and keep their password protected not only demonstrate self respect — they also show they understand the boundaries of privacy.
Many companies have policies in place prohibiting employees from sharing email passwords, security cards, etc. Unless companies are using this question to screen out employees who would breach other security protocols, it’s best to respect an employee’s personal life.
Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.