East TN News
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Employers Crossing Internet Privacy Lines


By John M Disque

Edited by James Howell



Most people know that it’s now fairly common practice for an employer to glance over an applicant’s Facebook page and most have resolved to simply be careful with what they post, but what happens when the employer can’t see your page at all?


If you go to your Facebook page and find your privacy settings you’ll see you have an array of options. If you take a look at your “Control Your Default Privacy” you’ll notice that you can make your Facebook page public, you can make it so only your friends can see it and you can customize which friends can and cannot see your page.


If your privacy setting is “public” anyone who is logged into Facebook can see your page. If it’s set to “friends” only your friends can see it and this has been a dilemma for many potential employers trying to get more information on exactly who you are.


It’s illegal for an employer to ask questions about your religion, marital status, political views, etc., but what if all this information is openly displayed on your social media accounts? In essence – the employer doesn’t have to break the law and ask because, if your profiles are public, you’re volunteering the information.


Imagine yourself sitting down at a job interview…. Your new fancy resume is in-hand and you spent the night practicing your answers to all the usual questions. Then the employer asks for your Facebook username and password.


Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Guess what…? …It happens everyday and the public is just now getting wind of the issue.


Many are questioning the legalities of the issue and at least two states, Illinois and Maryland, are considering laws banning the practice on "right to privacy" grounds but the wheels of justice turn slowly. In the mean time it is up to “the people” to govern the companies. I’m convinced that once the public gets wind of this issue and thinks it through they will see the horrible implications.



Other employers have dodged the "user name and password" issue by asking that you “friend” the company’s FB page and, once that occurs, they can see all your pictures of aunt Betty and .00003% of the story about your failed marriage. Many do this during the actual interview process and, if you refuse, you’ll be seen as someone with something to hide and your eligibility with the company will cease to exist.


Some people’s first reaction is; “What’s the big deal if you have nothing to hide?” Now – what happens if the person interviewing you is atheist and you’re a devout Christian? What happens if you’re a Democrat and the person responsible for hiring you is a Republican? What happens if the person is prejudice and your husband is African American? What happens when the company is in the south, the interviewer is still fighting the civil war and you were born in New York City? What if the interviewer is homophobic and you’re gay?


None of the above examples would be relevant to your ability to fill the position and be an asset to the company but you are not dealing with computers and machines – you’re dealing with human beings and anyone over 3 years old knows how judgmental and ignorant they can be.


Depending on the individual’s financial situation, many people simply cannot afford to say no. They’re handing over their log-in information and praying for the best


There are laws in place that prevent someone from just walking up to your door and entering at will. Shouldn't you have the same protection when it comes to social media? Orin Kerr (George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor) says it’s an egregious privacy violation and that’s akin to asking someone for his or her house keys.


One of the best things about the advent of social media was the ability for ordinary folks to be able to share true thoughts and feelings and possibly have others that felt the same way respond. It was also a chance for those with differing opinions to see how others felt on certain topics and issues with the possibility of being able to see things in a different light. This could perhaps lead to an understanding that it takes all kinds of people to make any organization, family, city, state or country great. Maybe, as different as we are, there could be a chance at honesty and acceptance. Maybe there would be an outpouring of remarkable ideas that could finally receive recognition. This dream seems to be dying.


In a related article - Brad Lovett touches on the issue of The Federal Trade Commission giving the green light to Social Intelligence Company to monitor social media profiles and establish reports for employers…. Find the article here ===>  Big Brother Is In Charge Of Your Future


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Published in East TN News March 24, 2012

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