Privacy and passwords: don't give in on either

I’ve been listening to reports here and there about a new trend among some employers where they are making, quite frankly, outrageous demands that job applicants give over their passwords to Facebook and e-mail accounts so the prospective employer can check out what you’re saying and who you’re friending. I’m here to weigh on on the matter with a hearty “Hell, no!”

In spite of attempts to the contrary, you’re not an indentured servant to your employer. While they have the right to set certain behavioral limits on you while on the job they do not own you and cannot impose such mandates on you in your private life. And both what you say and who you friend on Facebook is most certainly your private life. Speaking as a professional in the IT world, I’d also point out that many, many services and web sites are using Facebook as an authenticator service, meaning that they authorize access to their services based on whether you can log into your Facebook account or not. Giving that password over to someone else permits them to access those services as if they’re you, whether you ever accessed them or not.

I would also take pains to point out to any such employer making that demand of me that I wouldn’t give someone else my user ID and password on their system if I were employed at the company, either, and that’s an attitude they should be happy with, not trying to break down.

If an employer is starting off their relationship with you like this, it’s going to get worse and not better, I assure you. My suggestion: tell ’em thanks but no thanks and move on with your job search so you can find an ethical firm to work for.

(FYI, it appears that the issue has gotten enough people angry enough that there are laws being proposed that would make such requests illegal.)