Can Employers Demand Your Facebook Password?

The NJ Assembly passed a bill on Monday that would fine employers if they force current and prospective employees to turn over their usernames and passwords to Facebook and other social media sites.

The bill, which passed 77-0, would fine companies $1,000 for the first offense and $2,500 each time after, according to an article on NJ.com. Also, employees can sue. A similar federal bill failed to pass Congress in March, but at least ten other state legislatures have introduced similar measures.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester), a sponsor of the bill, said in May, “In this job market, especially, employers clearly have the upper hand. Demanding this information is akin to coercion when it might mean the difference between landing a job and not being able to put food on the table for your family…This is a huge invasion of privacy that takes ‘Big Brother’ to a whole new level. It’s really no different than asking someone to turn over a key to their house.”

Another bill, which passed 75-0, would prohibit colleges and universities from requiring students to let them access their accounts, though the bill does not set a fine.

Prospective college graduate Daniel Reyes wrote about the issue in the Jersey Journal from his perspective:

As a 22-year-old college student nearing graduation, job interviews are on the horizon as I join the thousands upon thousands of recent grads clawing for the safety net of employment.

While it may seem brash to declare this so prematurely, potential employers that ask for my passwords to Facebook, Twitter, etc. are going to be sorely disappointed, I hope, when I walk out of the interview.

I have nothing to hide, mind you, my Twitter account is open to the public and there’s a distinct absence of pictures that would possibly bar me from getting a job; it’s mostly on principle.

It’s a thin line employers are walking when they start asking for passwords prior to clocking in, or out, for the day before everything looks eerily similar to 1984.

What do you think of the new bill? Should employers be able to know what their potential hires are up to in their personal cyberspace worlds, or is it an unconscionable invasion of privacy to demand access to someone’s social media sites?

Tell us in comments.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. I would never give an employer a password to anything personal–it is a complete invasion of privacy. They can ask to “friend” me, but I would never consider working for an employer who went so far as to demand an actual password.

  2. Absolutely not. Unless I commit a felony, what I do outside of work is nobody’s business but my own. If someone demanded my FB password on a job interview, I would get up and leave.

  3. Is this a real issue? Or are legislators on overdrive? Which company has asked for this info? Which university? Certainly private use of computers can be monitored by employers and in fact stopped.

  4. Yes, it’s a very real issue and if you Google it, you will see that a number of companies, not just in NJ, have been asking job applicants and current employees for FB passwords. I am glad our legislators are nipping it in the bud. Your employer DOES have the right to monitor use of THEIR computers while you are at work. However, what you do at home (unless it’s illegal) or on the web outside of work is your business.

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