Employees and Social Media Passwords
There is a growing trend for organisations to ask employees or job applicants for their social media login details, particularly in regulated industries such as financial services and public sector government jobs.
There have been some high profile cases in America where this has already happened, such as those working for the city of Bozeman, Montana, although they have now changed their position. Employers will argue a candidate’s online profile is representative of what kind of person that employee is and how they will fit into the organisation. They will also argue that as employees are the face of the organisation, they want candidates who conduct themselves in a manner which is reflective of the organisation they work for. Other organisations may feel that they have a duty to monitor online profiles, for example, to make sure there are no conflicts of interest.
This is not a new trend. There are products on the market which have been around for some time that allow you to scan the internet (including social media sites) to collect information on certain people, one such service is Social Source. There are also a number of employers who admit to viewing a candidate’s social media information by asking a current employee who is already “friends” with the candidate on facebook. However, it is argued that this new trend of requesting a candidate’s social media login details is a riskier business. It would allow employers to view information that they otherwise would not legally be able to use for screening purposes, either intentionally or unintentionally, such as age, religion and sexual orientation.
For some this is an obvious breach of a person’s right to privacy and it is worth noting that this is something recognised by technology companies where the trend is not quite as common. Technology companies appear to be more supportive of their employee’s right to freedom of speech. They seem to believe that maintaining a distinction between their employees’ personal and professional lives is part of encouraging their employees to be freethinking and creative. On the other hand, this may also be because technology companies are better at finding out information that is already in the public domain and they consider this information to be sufficient for screening purposes.
Whilst there are many companies asking for employees for their login details, there is also a growing movement trying to fight back, such as in the American state of Illinois where they want to pass legislation preventing employers from asking job applicants to login to their social media accounts. Alternatively, some individuals are creating multiple social media sites for personal and professional uses, whilst others simply restrict what information they share online.
The intersection of privacy law, the importance of social media for business and each of us personally, employer’s legitimate rights and employee’s right is a minefield at the moment. A very interesting area but one where employers certainly should tread very carefully indeed !
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