Around the World

Company Policies Push Privacy

Chad W. Lutz
Remember when our parents used to warn us about what we said, did, put, or bought on the Internet? I can recall numerous occasions as a child being told never to buy anything online, ever. Listening to my iPod purchased on Amazon.com last September, a devilish smile consumes my face. Then came Facebook, and my parents’ warnings became even more fervent and frantic. I’m sure I’m not alone and assume most twenty-somethings have heard a fair share of grief from technologically cautious parents. I tried to do a little profile scrub every now-and-again, but more or less I’ve been pretty lazy about my account in terms of what I say and what I do.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the Sunday Akron Beacon Journal to find a story about employers asking prospective employees for passwords to their Facebook accounts. You heard me. In an effort to fully understand the individuals they’re hiring, many employers across the United States have begun requesting access to candidates’ Facebook pages in order to find out more about potential hires.

Previously, a simple background check stood as the general modus operandi when it came to thoroughly screening individuals. Drug testing, credit checks, and basic, unobtrusive questionnaires also provide employers with a window into the lives of candidates behind closed doors. Federal and State law generally govern what an employer may ask a potential employee and the avenues an employer may use to find out information about a new-hire.

But in an age where you can log on and instantly find pictures of your neighbor doing a naked ice-luge on the shoulders of midget albinos with a .45 in his hand, the new trend does raise questions on both sides of the argument. On one hand, you have people voluntarily signing up for and disseminating information in a public forum, which claims to have over 845 million users worldwide. On the other hand, you have the Fourth Amendment and any American’s right to privacy. Does an employer have the right to ask a candidate for Facebook password information?

The United States Congress does not seem to think so. After a proposed amendment to the Federal Communications Commission Reform Act of 2012 fell in the House of Representatives last week, employers still have the ability, and right, to ask potential employees for access to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts. The amendment to H.R. 3309 failed by a vote of 236-184.