Social Networking Passwords Off Limits To Employers in Six States
A world in which job applicants had to put their name, address, and social networking password on a resume sounds like something from a dystopian sci-fi nightmare. However, privacy advocates are growing increasingly nervous about the prevalence of social media in the workplace, and with the recent failure of the Password Protection Act of 2012, perhaps they are right to be concerned about potential privacy abuse by employers. Although no national precedent has been set regarding the privacy (or lack thereof) of social networking and employment, six states have signed legislation that bans employers from asking for employee's social networking password, according to Wired. Though the bans single out Facebook passwords, it is safe to assume other social networking sites, such as Twitter and Pinterest, would also be off limits under the new legislation.
However, this is not a 100% get-out-of-jail-free card for employees who love to tweet and post. Though employers may not ask for passwords under the new law, there is nothing prohibiting them from looking through information that is publicly posted on social networking sites. If a potential or current employee has a publicly available social networking page, anything on that page is fair game and can be used when making hiring decisions without any incident.
While the staunchest privacy advocates say that searching for any public or private information via social networking is unethical, IT professionals at midsize businesses must adopt a policy that makes sense for the company, and then make sure that all potential and current employees are aware of the policy. In addition to informing employees about what information their managers may be looking at, midsize businesses can also make it a point to reassure nervous employees about what information will not be screened.
Banning businesses from requiring employees to supply social networking passwords seems like a no-brainer, but unfortunately there have been many abuses of privacy in the last few years when it comes to privacy, social networking, and the workplace. While lawmakers and politicians are working out the legalities of how companies and employees interact in an online social landscape, making sure company policy is well-known and employees feel secure at work (and with their social networking) is a task that may seem insignificant, but can help midsize businesses cope with the ever-changing tech landscape and ensure they avoid any potential legal issues in the future.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.