It was bound to happen. I just read that some employers are asking employees for their social media passwords. Of course, this has ripped open legislator arguments on both sides of the fence. I heard it’s Bill, H.R. 3309, would prevent employers from demanding workers’ social networking usernames and passwords — and would have allowed the FCC to act on behalf of employees and their privacy. It was unceremoniously shot down in even hit some regional courts. I read about this in a post on The Atlantic website (Your Facebook Page). The post said that a proposed the House. The upshot? Right now, any employer can ask any employee for his or her social media passwords.
Fortunately, the practice of employers asking for social networking passwords is not widespread. But it does raise the question, “How private is your social media information, and should you retain the right to this privacy?” I’ve heard both sides of the issue.
On one side, there’s the ACLU. They compare requesting passwords to opening someone else’s mail. An ACLU spokesperson said, “You’d be appalled if your employer insisted on opening up your postal mail to see if there was anything of interest inside… it’s equally out of bounds for an employer to go on a fishing expedition through a person’s private social media account.” Good point, right?
On the other side, the argument is that employers are within their rights to require drug tests and personality tests of their employees (I agree with this; it protects the safety of all employees). The argument goes on to suggest that — just as students have a reduced expectation of privacy while they’re at school — employees have a reduced expectation of privacy while they’re at work. Yes; to some degree. But, how far can employers go?
I’ve always felt that, as individuals, we have our right to self-expression, and we’ll seek employment where we feel comfortable with people who seem like us. That said, I believe that, as adults, we have an obligation to think before we post anything that may embarrass us or those close to us. In that way, if we’re obligated (for reasons of national or local security, or for the protection of our business) to divulge our social media passwords, we’ll feel comfortable with the outcome.
It seems that many people feel the same as I do about this issue. A recent (Feb. 27, 2012) Pew Study: Social Media Users Active in Protecting Privacy, found that users are more active in managing their social media accounts. Compared to 2009, a higher percentage of users deleted people from their “friends” lists, deleted comments made by others on their profile, and removed their names from photos in which they were tagged.