PALO ALTO, CA - JUNE 04: Gail Sredanovic of the group Raging Grannies holds a sign depicting a Facebook page as she protests outside of the Facebook headquarters June 4, 2010 in Palo Alto, California. The group was calling for the FTC to investigate FaceBook's privacy policies. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Officer Robert Collins, who had taken a leave of absence and was returning to his job, said that he felt he had no choice but to acquiesce to the Maryland's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services request for his Facebook login and password, he told the Washington Post.
The department said that the year-old practice of asking prospective employees to give their user names and passwords to social networks like Facebook was to check for gang affiliations. However, now the departments has suspended the policy pending an administrative review -- and after the ACLU sent the department this letter. From the letter:
Login information gives the DOC access to communications that are intended to be
private, such as personal email messages and wall postings viewable only by
those selected individuals who have been granted access. For social media users
who maintain private accounts, the DOC demand for login information is
equivalent to demands that they produce all of their private correspondence and
photographs for review, or permit the government to listen in on their personal
telephone calls, as a condition of employment.
I wrote yesterday about how lawyers and jury consultants, both for the defense and the prosecution, are using Facebook to screen jurors. I'm not surprised that employers are checking out prospective employees online, but I am surprised they would ask for passwords and in the interview process before offering anyone a job. I'm sure I would say no and risk losing the chance at the job -- but in this economy not everyone can risk losing that chance. In short, this is a kind of economic blackmail -- give up all your privacy and we will consider you for a job.
I hope this policy will be stopped and found to be as anti-American as I believe it to be.