Thursday, March 22, 2012

Job Applicants Are Being Asked To Turn Over Their Facebook And Twitter Log In Info... Or Else


Tuesday night, when DC Dems were celebrating corporate shill Brad Schneider's win over progressive icon Ilya Sheyman all over Twitter-- and way before the delayed David Gill victory over Matt Goetten was announced-- I had to get away from my computer. So I went for a drive up into the mountains. I was listening to NPR and suddenly this story comes on about job applicants being required to turn over their passwords and log-in information to Facebook and Twitter by potential employers. I was aghast. So was the interviewer. He asked "the expert" if the applicant had to and the obvious answer was no, of course not... unless they were serious about getting the job.
In their efforts to vet applicants, some companies and government agencies are going beyond merely glancing at a person's social networking profiles and instead asking to log in as the user to have a look around.

"It's akin to requiring someone's house keys," said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor who calls it "an egregious privacy violation."

Questions have been raised about the legality of the practice, which is also the focus of proposed legislation in Illinois and Maryland that would forbid public agencies from asking for access to social networks.

Since the rise of social networking, it has become common for managers to review publicly available Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts and other sites to learn more about job candidates. But many users, especially on Facebook, have their profiles set to private, making them available only to selected people or certain networks.

Companies that don't ask for passwords have taken other steps-- such as asking applicants to friend human resource managers or to log in to a company computer during an interview. Once employed, some workers have been required to sign non-disparagement agreements that ban them from talking negatively about an employer on social media.

...More companies are also using third-party applications to scour Facebook profiles, Bryan said. One app called BeKnown can sometimes access personal profiles, short of wall messages, if a job seeker allows it.

Sears is one of the companies using apps. An applicant has the option of logging into the Sears job site through Facebook by allowing a third-party application to draw information from the profile, such as friend lists.

Sears Holdings Inc. spokeswoman Kim Freely said using a Facebook profile to apply allows Sears to be updated on the applicant's work history.

The company assumes "that people keep their social profiles updated to the minute, which allows us to consider them for other jobs in the future or for ones that they may not realize are available currently," she said.

Giving out Facebook login information violates the social network's terms of service. But those terms have no real legal weight, and experts say the legality of asking for such information remains murky.

The Department of Justice regards it as a federal crime to enter a social networking site in violation of the terms of service, but during recent congressional testimony, the agency said such violations would not be prosecuted.

But Lori Andrews, law professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law specializing in Internet privacy, is concerned about the pressure placed on applicants, even if they voluntarily provide access to social sites.

"Volunteering is coercion if you need a job," Andrews said.

Neither Facebook nor Twitter responded to repeated requests for comment.

Lately corporate policies related to employees use of Facebook and other social media sites have become a hot button topic for the National Labor Relations Board. A new complaint by the NLRB General Counsel states that Hyatt Hotel’s employee handbook unfairly muzzles workers. Hyatt’s policy states:
Avoid commenting on Hyatt or any Hyatt location… Hyatt may request that you temporarily confine your use of social media to matters unrelated to Hyatt if it determines this is necessary or advisable to ensure compliance with applicable laws or Hyatt policies.

In other words, Hyatt wants to monitor its employees’ Facebook and Twitter accounts to make sure they’re putting on a happy face when they’re off the clock as well. The NLRB General Counsel found that this type of blanket policy is too broad and illegally prohibits workers from advocating about problems with their jobs. This complaint applies both to union and non-union Hyatt employees. The Hyatt Hotels are controlled by billionaire Pritzker family of Chicago. Penny Pritzker was finance chair of Obama campaign in 2008 is on the Board of Directors and Tom Pritzker, Hyatt’s Executive Chairman, gives to loads of Republicans, from Mitt Romney and George Bush to Eric Cantor and his PAC, as well as to sleazy Democrats like Blagojevich, Lieberman and Durbin. One of the Hyatt employees, Jim Lair Beard, a blogger who works at the Hyatt Andaz in West Hollywood, told us yesterday that “For me this is an issue of free speech, and Hyatt has overstepped its bounds. Hyatt should not be interfering with what I do or what I say on my own time, whether it’s at home, on Facebook or anywhere else."

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At 8:46 AM, Blogger Wraxtiorre said...

I made this the Status update of this posting on Facebook: "I just thought about this question. It's not just a job-applicant breach, you know. How secure would you feel on Facebook or Twitter knowing that some of your friend's posts might actually have been posted by his-her boss? If you flamed your friend, could you be getting them fired? And isn't that therefore an infringement on YOUR privacy?"


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