I KEEP THINKING THIS THING about employers requesting applicants' Facebook account passwords is going to blow over. That it's one of those crazy urban myths. That it's impossible to trace it back to its source and now people are spreading it simply because everyone's talking about it and it carries a certain amount of alarm.
I also heard that kid Mikey from the Life cereal commercials died from combining Pop Rocks and Coca-Cola.
Why won't this ridiculous story just go away? This morning as I was getting ready for work, my local news outlet reported on it! Here's the thing: I have yet to hear anyone come forward and say yes, I applied to work at XYZ Company, and they asked me for my Facebook account information. And until I hear that, I just can't believe that any employer that's been doing business in the United States for any length of time would dare to go down that very dangerous road.
This blog post on Fistful of Talent articulates why. If you, Ms. Recruiting Manager, gain access to my account, then you will probably find out things about me that laws say you MAY NOT USE when making your decision to hire me. You may learn my age, or that I'm pregnant, or that I'm a devout insert-religion-here, or that I'm homosexual (or a homophobe). You may learn that I have a child with a health issue and you may conclude that I might miss a lot of work because of it. You may learn that my cancer is in remission, and not hire me for fear it'll return, or that I smoke, or drink a lot, or have very strong political opinions, or am seeing a shrink. Heck, you may learn that I drive an old car and conclude that I'm going to have problems commuting and assume me to be less than dependable.
You may be tempted to draw all kinds of conclusions about the kind of employee I'm going to be, without knowing the full story, and you might decide not to hire me because of it. And then I will probably sue you because YOU JUST CAN'T DO THAT.
I'm sure stranger things have happened; but to me, it just sounds like a trumped-up story that's being circulated for its shock value.
Even if this story is an exaggeration, there's a nugget of caution we all can take away from it. Have you Googled yourself? Because you can be assured, your current and future employers have, or will. Make sure your Facebook privacy settings don't allow the random public to see things you wouldn't want them to see - photos, videos, status updates - it's just good sense to be cautious. Think before you Tweet. Or blog. Or, for that matter, comment on a blog. I'm not saying don't Tweet or blog or leave comments, just know that when you do, the Whole Wide World can see it.
Think of it this way. Like many kids, my son started Facebooking in middle school. When he signed up then, we made it conditional on him "friending" his dad and me. Now he's a sophomore in high school, and recently, he "unfriended" us. At first I was alarmed, but then it occurred to me that when I was his age, my parents didn't have that kind of access to my personal life. (And thank the goddesses for that!) I was free to complain about my mom to my friends, or drop the occasional F-bomb, without her reading about it and freaking the freak out because it was all over my Facebook page.
Should parents expect to have that kind of access to what goes on in their kids' heads? Because it's possible, should it be required?
I can see the flip side of my argument: I might pick up evidence that my son is depressed or using drugs or drinking at parties or having sex or bullying another kid or planning a shooting rampage. But if I'm already paying attention to my kid, communicating with him, as any good parent will, I feel like I would sense trouble in the clues he was giving me anyway.
In short: Just because I *can* have that kind of access, doesn't necessarily mean I *should* have that kind of access.
Of course, he hasn't yet figured out that his settings still allow me to see his Facebook wall, so yeah, I look at it. I can't comment, but I can see it. And that goes back to my earlier point that if potential employers can see stuff, it's fair game... but asking for full access is several steps over the line in my book.
Now, if you yourself have been personally asked by a potential employer - or your current one - to fork over full access to your secret Facebook life - I'd love to hear about it! Until then, I'll be over here, chewing Pop Rocks and swigging soda pop.