“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
It’s been eight long years since Bozeman, Montana, set the internet on fire by requiring that job applicants for municipal positions turn over passwords to their personal social media accounts as part of the application process. In the wake of that story, states rushed to introduce legislation prohibiting this practice; many succeeded. And, the story more or less died.
Thank you, NBC, for reigniting it.
From the New York Post:
A fired NBC employee claims a recruiter who initially contacted her for a job as an audio-visual coordinator told her NBC “specifically asked for good-looking employees”— and wanted to see pictures before she could get her foot in the door.
Stephanie Belanger says the recruiter asked her “to show her Facebook/Instagram profile to NBC before she could be interviewed.”
Despite all the the negative press that this story is going to receive, I would be surprised if one-percent of one-percent of all employers have even considered asking a job applicant for access to a private social-media account, let alone carried through on the thought by making it a hiring requirement.
And do you know why most (nearly all?) employers do not do this? It’s bad HR policy, with significant legal risk:
- EEO Risks: Mining Facebook and other social sites for information on job applicants can reveal a wealth of protected EEO information (age, religion, protected medical information, genetic information). The risk is great enough when the information is publicly available; it is exponentially heightened when you gain unfettered access to information shielded by a password. For some thoughts on best practices on conducting Internet searches on applicants or employees, click here.
- Stored Communications Act Risks: At least one court has concluded that an employer who requires employees to disclose passwords to social media sites violates the federal Stored Communications Act, which extends liability to parties that exceed authorization to access electronic communications. While this area of the law might be unsettled, testing it could prove a costly mistake.