Can we ask applicants for their Facebook passwords?

I’ve been reading about employers asking candidates during the interview process for their login and password to social media websites like Facebook. Do you see any legality issues here? How about in asking them to login on a company computer so the interviewer can look around on their account and see who they are friends with? Or asking the candidate to friend the interviewer so the interviewer can see more than just the “public” view? I feel a privacy line is being crossed here and I’m uncomfortable. For one thing, these requests ask the candidate to violate their terms of service with the website.

Posted 05-16-2012

Ann Kiernan replies:

I agree with you. Employers have no legitimate interest in viewing anything but publicly available material online. And there certainly can be legal problems. Maryland has enacted legislation, effective on October 1, 2012, barring employers from requesting access to social media accounts of current employees as well as job applicants. Similar measures are pending in many other states, including California, New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota, and federal lawmakers in the House and Senate are working on legislation that would ban the practice nationally.


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About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.