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Social-media passwords requested by potential employers

March 23, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Apply for a job and you could be under an online microscope. A growing number of employers will request your Facebook password so they can delve into your personal life. One state lawmaker is hoping to put a stop to this practice.

Most people looking for a job at the Employment Development Office say they are uncomfortable giving hiring managers their social-media passwords to give them access to private profiles.

"I don't really like anybody in my privacy or in my business at all," said Ashley Clarke, who is looking for work. "Whatever goes on in my life, it goes on in my life.

But asking for passwords is becoming a trend. With so many people unemployed, companies feel they can be picky and want to know more about their candidates.

A Facebook or Twitter account, though, could have unflattering pictures from Las Vegas, or information about recreational drug use.

Desperate job-seekers might feel obligated to hand over passwords in exchange for a paycheck.

"When it comes to feeding one's family and taking care of one's family that is always a highest priority, and a lot of us would prioritize that over privacy concerns," said UC Davis Professor Andy Jones, a social-media expert.

State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) says that's not right, and has introduced legislation that would ban companies and government agencies in California from asking applicants and even current employees for their social-media passwords.

The practice seems more prevalent in the public sector, especially law enforcement.

"We don't ask for passwords. We just ask for access," said Sacramento Police Sgt. Andrew Pettit.

Those who don't ask for passwords, ask to be "friended" on Facebook, and denying access raises questions.

"Then that's one of the red flags that we look at," said Pettit. "We want to see why don't they want to share those things with us? Is there something you're hiding?"

Facebook made it clear Friday: It does not approve of anyone asking for passwords.

In a statement, Facebook informed users: " .... You should never have to share your password, let anyone access your account, or do anything that might jeopardize the security of your account or violate the privacy of your friends," wrote Erin Egan, chief privacy officer of Facebook.

Facebook even went as far as saying it might help lawmakers pass proposals like Yee's, or initiate legal action to help protect its users.


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