Sunday, August 26, 2012

Shoulder Surfing: What to do if an employer asks for your Facebook password

I am sure many of you have heard warnings from both parents and teachers to "beware of what you post online because it will exist forever". That is indeed true and I do believe that you should be wary of your privacy settings and what exactly it is that you are posting on various social media websites. However, I am also an advocate for keeping business separate from pleasure. Therefore, it is no surprise that I was severely taken aback when I learned about a new practice going on called shoulder surfing.

Of course, precautions have been made to keep employers from seeing my full Facebook page. I have changed my last name to my middle name and have the privacy settings adhere anyone from seeing anything  unless I accept their friend request. However, if I was in an interview and an employer asked me to enter my password for them so that they could go through my entire page, I would feel trapped. It is not that there is anything questionable on my Facebook, but I just would not want a potential employer to have complete access to absolutely everything on my Facebook page. There could perhaps be things I have allowed only access to myself and a few friends or personal messages I would like to keep private. Whatever the case, it is an invasion of privacy and in violation of Facebook's privacy settings.

This may not be the most popular blog post with professors and employers but I felt that this was beneficial advice for those of us going on interviews in the future who do not wish to have their privacy invaded. Here are a few suggestions of what you can do if you are ever asked to divvy over your social media password:

  • Respectfully decline their request. Explain that you take Facebook's privacy policy very seriously and do not wish to share your password.
  • Put their request in perspective. Explain that just as their company most likely has a social media policy in place, yours is to only use it for personal reasons.
  • Explain that you do not wish to risk their company's well being in regards to OFCCP's regulations pertaining to protected private information.
  • Personally, I would explain that privacy means a lot to me and I would uphold their company's private matters just as sternly as I hold mine. I would then explain that I would like to keep my personal life separate from my work life.
Of course, it is essential to be cautious of posting things online. Facebook holds the rights to whatever it is that you put out there, even after you delete it. Also, it is important to keep in mind that if you are desperate for a job or very keen on a particular opportunity, it may not be advisable to refuse to give your password to an employer. If this is the case, make sure your Facebook and social media sites do not have anything you would not be proud of. For the full article and more information on the injustice behind shoulder surfing, click here.

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