Can You Ask Your Employees For Their Facebook Password?

Facebook Password: Are You Legally Obliged To Give Yours To Your Employer?

Paul Whitfield comments in the Financial Times on the new trend of employer’s asking employees for their Facebook Password:

Read the whole piece HERE

Q: I was recently asked to hand over my Facebook password at a job interview. I thought this was outrageous but after talking to friends realise it is quite common, especially after Facebook publicised its new privacy settings. What should I so in this situation? Am I legally obliged to hand it over? Obviously I am concerned that they will get more access to my life than I’d like a prospective employer to see.

This relatively new development from the USA is spreading to the UK as an evolution of an already common practice: Recruiters conducting online research into candidates such as viewing their public profiles on social networking sites and carrying out Google searches.

can your employer ask for your facebook password Can You Ask Your Employees For Their Facebook Password?

As is often the case, the law is far behind technological advances. Germany already outlaws this sort of conduct. In the USA on the other hand, an attempt to create similar legislation on the issue failed in the House of Representatives on 28 March.

The world’s largest social networking platform, Facebook has now threatened to bring claims against anyone who asks for people’s private passwords.

Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer recently issued a statement which stressed that the practice undermines the privacy expectations and security of users and their friends. The statement went on to highlight how giving your password to a potential employer would be in breach of the site’s terms of use.

You are under no circumstances obliged to hand over any of your personal passwords. However, it isn’t unlawful for a potential employer to ask for it either. In reality, and perhaps unfairly, you are probably unlikely to get the job if you refuse. I would anticipate widespread outrage at this notion but, nonetheless, there is no obvious cause of action since you always have the right to refuse such a request.

If you did hand over your password and then didn’t get the job, you might be able to bring a claim. In this scenario it is the employer who is taking a risk in accessing your account. They might discover that you are pregnant, gay or suffer from a disability: all unlawful reasons not to give you the job and could enable you to bring a claim for discrimination. It would be hard for the employer to prove that information from your personal accounts didn’t influence their decision.

Paul Whitfield is a solicitor at Fox Whitfield.