Employers in the US are now it seems asking job candidates to give them their Facebook passwords so that the account of the prospective employee can be scanned to make sure that they are fit to join the company.

It has long been understood that employers will use the internet to find out what public lifestyle information they can about job applicants as well as those already in their employ. But this new twist, the use of so called ‘shoulder-surfing’ to get at private information in their social media accounts, is just adding to the ever more intrusive practices of employers.

In this age of instant communication where one slip on the keyboard can spill the beans to millions, employers are feeling the need more and more to protect themselves against people who expose all on the Web. So they probably feel justified in engaging in shoulder-surfing. It is also a good tool to gauge whether that CV and application form is really a true reflection of the person sat in front of them at the interview.

It could also unmask any unsavoury or illegal activity that the potential employee has been getting up to. This could be especially relevant to people looking for, or holding jobs, in finance, education and law enforcement for example. After all, as a parent would you not want all teachers to have their social media profiles open for inspection? Some organisations already insist that you ‘Friend’ someone in the organisation who can then monitor what goes on in your account.

Although it is against Facebook’s terms and conditions to give out your account on pain of having your page shut down many people may feel pressurised into doing so to get (or maybe even keep) that job even if they felt it was none of the company’s business.

Computer keyboard

Computer keyboard

It also brings into question whether an employer is entitled to any non-public information that your account holds.

But how useful is all this really if people start using aliases and claim they don’t have a Facebook page?

But why stop there? Let’s get all mail diverted and opened by company HR personnel. How about E-Mail accounts and telephone eavesdropping?

The message is pretty plain and clear; either don’t have a social media account or be very careful what you say and post on there. Or risk losing that job by saying that, as it’s against the relevant terms and conditions which you’ve signed up to, you feel uncomfortable in doing so.

One last little matter, it would also make it far easier for the government (or anyone else for that matter) to get hold of your account details if they knew that employers held this information as a matter of course. So, if you do decide to hand over your account details you need a cast iron guarantee that they will look after the information. After all people have been known to sell on such information.

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