In one of the Tech Curmudgeon’s favorite movies, Winston Zeddmore (played by Ernie Hudson) told Ray Stantz (played by Dan Aykroyd) “When someone asks if you’re a god, you say ‘YES!'” In that same spirit, if a prospective employer asks for your Facebook password, you say “NO!” Actually, the Tech Curmudgeon initially thought that “fuck off!” was a better response, but you may not want to get a reputation for having an attitude problem.
Then again, having an attitude about refusing to bare your private life to an employer who has no legitimate interest in said private life isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That’s why it’s called “your private life,” after all.
The Tech Curmudgeon also feels that any company who demands access to your private information via social networking sites as a condition of employment is a company that desperately needs to go out of business yesterday, if not sooner.
The Tech Curmudgeon expects that prospective employers are going to check up on the people they’re interviewing. Google is the interviewer’s friend for this – simply typing in your name and perusing the first few pages of links is usually enough to get some idea of who you are. And if you’re going in for an interview, you should expect to field questions about what that Google search turns up. The Tech Curmudgeon actually thinks that’s just fine. That’s why the Tech Curmudgeon thinks young people today should be a hell of a lot more careful about what they put online, instead of naively assuming that “no-one will ever see this sexting pic I just sent my BF/GF.”
But demanding that you turn over your Facebook password, which could easily be your email and Twitter and Plurk and LinkedIn and Pinterist and StumbleUpon and Pandora and laptop – and banking – password too is an invasion that no-one should have to sit still for.
As for “shoulder surfing,” the practice of asking someone to log in and then look over their shoulder to see their private information? The Tech Curmudgeon says “bite me.” Unlike what the employers in this PC Magazine article claim, it’s not a compromise – it’s an invasion. The severity of the invasion is less, but that’s like saying you were only stabbed three inches deep instead of being run through completely – you still got stabbed.
Employers mentioned in the original AP article said that they feared for the company’s reputation. The Tech Curmudgeon can understand that concern, seeing how a company’s reputation is one of the most important, if not the most important, intangible asset a company has. Develop a rep for building crap or having piss-poor customer service and you (rightly) won’t sell squat. Similarly, if your employees are doing drugs, then that’s bad for the bottom line too.
But where does that arguments stop? If a company’s rep is what makes them money, then maybe anything that makes the company money – or costs it money – is reason enough to make unreasonable searches of your life. The Tech Curmudgeon knows – how about prospective employers demand a body cavity search while they’re surfing your Facebook? Too much meat in your stool means that you’re at risk for colon cancer, and shelling out for cancer treatments would boost health insurance spending and affect the bottom line too, right? Bam! “Don’t call us, we’ll call you….”
If it were the government doing this, it would be against the Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Last the Tech Curmudgeon checked, damage to reputation didn’t qualify as “probable cause,” Facebook and email and twitter probably qualified as “letters, and effects,” and no company has the judicial authority to issue warrants.
Give the Tech Curmudgeon a break already.
At least Facebook has come out and told companies to cut it out already. The Tech Curmudgeon doesn’t expect Facebook’s demand to actually do much – this is Facebook, and it’s not like they haven’t created 10x more than their share of privacy issues over the years – but it’s better than nothing.