Privacy issues surrounding Facebook and other social networking sites appear in the news on a daily basis. A story broke last week that has garnered much attention with the news media, bloggers, and privacy advocates…virtually anyone with a remote interest in social media and/ or privacy.
The Maryland Department of Corrections shocked not only the applicant, but now the entire nation by requiring prospective employees to submit their Facebook login credentials as part of their routine background investigation.
Law enforcement officers and corrections officials are held to a higher standard, and it is certainly reasonable that a thorough and complete background investigation is necessary to ensure these positions are filled with qualified, reputable persons of high moral fiber. However, requiring access to their personal Facebook account crosses the line and is a gross invasion of privacy.
It is unlawful for an employer to ask your age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, marital status, religious affiliation, social organizational affiliations and if you smoke, drink or do illegal drugs. Just about every one of the above mentioned “off-limit” items could be discovered with complete, unfettered access to a person’s Facebook account. It is shocking that policy makers would even approve such a gross civil rights violation.
The Maryland ACLU chapter is now involved and calls the State’s request a “frightening and illegal invasion of privacy” that raises “significant legal concerns.”
Perhaps a more appropriate requirement from an employer would be to have a clear and concise social media use policy and clearly communicate this to current and prospective employees.
It will be interesting to see how this case plays out. It could have far reaching implications on individual privacy in the workplace.