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Facebook Fires Back

Not surprisingly, {complink 10867|Facebook} has fired back at organizations that are asking people to provide their Facebook passwords.

In recent weeks, reports have surfaced about prospective employees or students being asked to provide Facebook passwords as part of an application process. (See: Applicants: Please Provide Facebook Password.) The practice has been challenged by the ACLU, but so far the case has not made it through the courts. Facebook's response may be the first volley in a war over users' privacy.

Here is an excerpt of a statement today by Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer:

In recent months, we’ve seen a distressing increase in reports of employers or others seeking to gain inappropriate access to people’s Facebook profiles or private information. This practice undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends. It also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability.
The most alarming of these practices is the reported incidences of employers asking prospective or actual employees to reveal their passwords. If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password, let anyone access your account, or do anything that might jeopardize the security of your account or violate the privacy of your friends…
As a user, you shouldn’t be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job. And as the friend of a user, you shouldn’t have to worry that your private information or communications will be revealed to someone you don’t know and didn’t intend to share with just because that user is looking for a job. That’s why we’ve made it a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password…
Facebook takes your privacy seriously. We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges.

42 comments on “Facebook Fires Back

  1. prabhakar_deosthali
    March 24, 2012

    Since the value of a person's private information is much more than his cash balance in  a bank , asking for password to have access for such an information tantamounts to robbery in no lessor means.

    Comapnies asking passwords of the facebook accounts from their prospective employees should be legally barred from such forceful access.

  2. ahdand
    March 24, 2012

    I think we simply cannot blame FB for privacy issues caused by 3d party apps in FB. Its beyond their control and nothing can FB do once the run the app on FB to get customer data.

  3. Clairvoyant
    March 24, 2012

    I think it is great that Facebook has come out against the companies performing these nonsense actions.

  4. Cryptoman
    March 24, 2012

     

    If an employer dared to ask me for something like that I would simply get up, slam the door and leave the room. Before slamming the door though, I think I would ask the employer whether he/she would like the password to my private email account as well as my login details to my online bank account (with a smirk on my face of course).

    Such a disrespectful demand from an employer at a job interview is a conclusive evidence that this employer is unprofessional and intends to control every aspect of the employee. Employees working for someone like that should not have big career expectations obviously.

    Money paid by an employer is for the expertise and the effort of the worker, not to gain control of their lives. I guess employers in countries where unemployment is high and jobs are scarce can dare to ask for such credentials because people are desparate to get a job to earn a living.

     

  5. Nemos
    March 24, 2012

    A great response from Facebook , I didnt expect it but I am glad to read this kind of response from Facebook. Well done Facebook

  6. Anna Young
    March 25, 2012

    This is a worrying phenomenon. It makes one wonder what's next? Could this be the shape of things to come in the future? Why would an employer or a prospective employer demand to access its staffs personal social media account?Anyway, Kudos to Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer for  clearly distancing the company from such invasive practices. I am glad Facebook has taken steps to urge its account holders to refrain from divulging such personal information to a third-party. I think an urgent legal clarification is required at this stage.

  7. Himanshugupta
    March 25, 2012

    I agree with most of the commentators that such as action is very inappropriate. This is strictly private business. Is there any logical reason why companies are asking for Facebook password only? If this trend continue then they can also ask for other account passwords too!

  8. Ashu001
    March 25, 2012

    Himanshu,

    Most Companies have seen how much damage can happen to their reputation because of the leaking of confidential data on Social Networks like Facebook.

    Also,people don't realize that when you conduct yourselves online you become a representative of the company you work for[Its surprising but its true-Especially if you fill out all your Personal Information In Facebook including the company you work for].

    You mess up online,you damage your company's name.That is why they are more careful today-They are more interested in patterns(more than anything else);if they see you have a past history of doing silly/stupid things online then that pattern will tend to repeat itself even with your new employer.

    We should not forget that there is no such thing as Private/Personal in the Online Space.

    If it was not clear already it became crystal Clear with the Announcement of the NSA Data center in UTAH.

    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/all/1

    Every single thing you do online will  be stored by the Government offically.If you don't want somebody to know something about you then Don't put it online.

    Simple.

    Ashish.

  9. Ashu001
    March 25, 2012

    Crypto,

    This is a great notion but frankly speaking it depends on your Bargaining Position vis a vis an employer[How Desperate are you for the Job].

    Most Americans today have barely any savings to speak of(nearly every person you meet on the street is basically living from paycheck to paycheck and if they lose their jobs they could very well lose their Cars and even their homes).

    In this sceanario,People are very desperate to get a new job as soon as possible and some unscrupulous employers are taking advantage of this by placing unreasonable demands such as this one.

    But if you look at it on another level-Does asking for access to Facebook differ so much from the Standard Security Clearance and Background Checks which most Companies conduct today?

    After all,is'nt Facebook just another facet of your personality/Background???

    There are a lot of Pros and Cons to this debate that need to thought about and understood in greater detail.

    One of The Biggest issue I feel is whether companies should allow Employees to access Facebook during Company Hours and whether they should be allowed to represent their company(You know on FB where you put where do you work in your Profile).

    Regards

    Ashish.

     

  10. ahdand
    March 25, 2012

    Exactly. I strictly believe that you cannot put the blame on FB for this. What they are doing is a business by allowing 3rd party companies to create and post apps on FB. That is how they generate evenue. So its up for the users to be cautious about their privacy.

  11. bolaji ojo
    March 25, 2012

    Congress is getting in on the story too. Now they want the FBI to investigate companies asking for applicants' Facebook information. This may end the practice.

  12. Ashu001
    March 25, 2012

    Prabhakar,

    This is not a simple Black and White Issue as most people tend to assume.

    It is much more complicated than that.

    I have written about it here

    http://www.ebnonline.com/messages.asp?piddl_msgthreadid=247413&piddl_msgid=595706#msg_595706

    I don't know involving the Govt wil change things here.After all the Govt is doing a lot of Spying itself. on its own citizens.

    Ashish.

  13. itguyphil
    March 25, 2012

    Why not? At this stage in the game, they pretty much have the largest worldwide platform to stand on and make some type of impact.

  14. elctrnx_lyf
    March 26, 2012

    I really do not understand why companies of such reputation would like to know about the facebook login details of an individual. I hopw soon the federal authorities will take care to stop such obligations from the companies. 

  15. Himanshugupta
    March 26, 2012

    Ashish, if companies start to micro-manage the people's activities like this then i am sure that they will not find enough employable people. Its not like they are recruiting people for highly confidentail missions. I am sure those companies who are so much worried about their employees (prospective or current) do spy on their employees by installing software bugs on their workstations so that they could keep an eye on the activities.

  16. Ashu001
    March 26, 2012

    Himanshu,

    Let me state what I have said earlier-Just because I understand their behavior does'nt mean I condone it.

    In fact,I think Companies with Zero PR skills are probably the ones who went about asking for these details publicly.

    All they had to do was hire someone ,who can get this information of Social Networks confidentially.It does'nt cost much today(and you don't see the Negative PR consequences such a total PR disaster can cause).

    What you are talking about(putting bugs on workstations to spy on employees);will happen at a later stage(this phenomenon of handing Facebook passwords the employer is before you have employees working for you).

    But you also should'nt forget that Unemployment & Underemployment especially amongst the 18-35 age bracket in America is today at All-time Highs(Over 45%)-The Numbers in most of Europe are even higher;These are the kinds of people who will be most susceptible to this kind of pressure from employers.They are desperate for a Job,any kind of job.

    But I will restate another fact which I had also said earlier-If there is something about yourself that you don't want others(especially prospective employers) to know;don't put it online.

    There is no Privacy for your Data in the Online Space.

    None.Zero.

    Simple as that.

    Regards

    Ashish.

  17. Eldredge
    March 26, 2012

    @Ashish – I totally agree with your assertion regarding security on social media websites of any kind – there is no such thing as privacy. One should always assume that what they post (and what other post on their sites) is available for the world to see. To assume anything else is naive.

  18. Ashu001
    March 26, 2012

    Eldredge,

    Thanks for showing your sensibility and pragmatism here.

    Too many people on this blog here are getting upset about the wrong issue(in my opinion).

    If you did'nt have anything private on those websites in the first place;Would you care if your Employer or the Govt for that matter accesses it?

    But then that's how the crowd tends to think usually.The Govt is there to do good and Protect us.

    Wrong Again,The Govt is only there to feed and protect itself.

    Once you start thinking and understanding everything along those lines,Life becomes much less complicated and Simple.

    You and only You are responsible for your well-being.

    You have to take responsibility for your actions.

    Regards

    Ashish.

  19. Barbara Jorgensen
    March 26, 2012

    Theoretically, I can see walking out of an office and refusing to comply with the request. Unfortunately, the job market isn't what it used to be and I think it would depend on the company, the job and other factors. But I agree, on prinicple, being asked for my Facebook login is insulting.

    The other option I dream of is asking the HR person if I could read their Facebook page. Many companies ask applicants if they have any question about the company, and that seems to be a good reply.

  20. Eldredge
    March 26, 2012

    @ Ashish,

       I'll have to admit, I'm not sure how I feel about an employer asking a prospective employee for the password to their parsonal account. That seems a little intrusive to me. At the same time, I have a daughter who is finishing college and ready to go out into the professional world, and we have been preaching to her for a long time abouth the dangers of putting too much personal information online. She has been a good listener, but I am sometimes shocked at what others will post. Social media is a forum where discretion is the better part of wisdom!

  21. Ashu001
    March 26, 2012

    Eldredge,

    Good thing is today more and more people are aware of the Privacy implications of putting their personal information online.

    Stalkers,Murderers,Criminals,etc are also using that data to commit innumerable crimes.

    So people will naturally get cautious.

    As for the Government and its spying.

    The number One reason there is they have to do this is to get a captive population on whom they can levy taxes forever and forever.

    We are nothing but slaves to the Govt in my opinion.

    To get some more perspective on this issue,Check this Video out.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOAgT8L_BqQ&feature=player_embedded#!

    and this

    http://www.empowerthetaxpayer.org/main/

    Regards

    Ashish.

  22. itguyphil
    March 26, 2012

    I don't think they should do it either based on the separation of work and private life. It seems like soon, your private life may matter more than your professional credentials. But I doubt governments will want to get involved in thise subject since it is messy and might set the wrong precedent.

  23. Eldredge
    March 27, 2012

    @pocharle,

       True, and in addition to that, the employee probably would never have a chance to address an issue or question that the employer may have after reviewing a social media website, unless the employer takes the inititate to call back the applicant. However, I could convince myself that there is a case for social media review for certain employers – public education comes to mind because the meida could easily come into use in the work environment, in communication with students.

  24. Barbara Jorgensen
    March 27, 2012

    @Ashish: I completely agree with your perspective regarding your daughter. I am facing the same dilemma with my son. Here's a recent example from the good old US of A: A teenager wrote a negative rant about her parents on Facebook. Her father took her laptop, shot it with a gun 3 times, and posted that on YouTube. Not only is airing family problems publicly a really bad idea, but what is your first impression of these people? The father is in IT as a matter of fact. Would you hire this guy? Would you let his daughter babysit for you? Worse, they both went on national TV to discuss this “issue.”

    I think aspects of Facebook and all aspects of reality TV are going to destroy civilization as we know it.

  25. Tim Votapka
    March 27, 2012

    It's amazing to me that anyone in a hiring position would rationalize asking a candidate for his/her personal login info on ANY account. Why not ask them for their bank account login to see if they're financially solvent? Wrong. Very wrong. And since it takes two to tango, who in their right mind is going to hand that data over? To me that's an indication of propitiation which isn't a good characteristic to look for in a staff member.

  26. Daniel
    March 28, 2012

    Yes there won't be any need to share our passwords with third person. Passwords are our private keys to access personal info's and why I have to share it with others. Moreover, I think it's against the online privacy policies of most of the social Medias.

  27. itguyphil
    March 28, 2012

    Education is a great example. I have some techer friends that have told me prior to accepting employment, they had to deactivate their FB accounts. I can understand that a bit more because you want to avoid the 'accidental' discovery of any unwanted information/images/videos by students.

  28. Susan Fourtané
    March 28, 2012

    Barbara, 

    “The father is in IT as a matter of fact. Would you hire this guy? Would you let his daughter babysit for you? Worse, they both went on national TV to discuss this “issue.””

    I pretty much agree with you; civilization as we know it might be at risk of extinction.

    To answer to your questions: No, I would never, ever, hired this guy. I am not sure about the daughter babysitting, though. I believe the daughter is a victim of sick parents, especially the father who was able to have such an irrational reaction being an IT person. You would think that an IT person has a better understanding of what technology means today.

    And broadcasting family issues on national TV is just something that should not happen.

    -Susan  

  29. Susan Fourtané
    March 28, 2012

    pocharle, 

    Shouldn't those teachers have the right to have a private life, and the right to have a Facebook account activated just like everyone else? 

    -Susan 

  30. Barbara Jorgensen
    March 28, 2012

    Pocharle–there have been a number  of incidents in the US where teachers were suspended ( it is hard to fire teachers here) for airing their views of their classrooms on Facebook, and one poor person got suspended becuase a friend posted a picture of her drinking a glass of wine. While I believe that some things should not be posted publicly, the Facebook-police are going a little over the top. Drinking wine on one's vacation is not grounds for suspension. I think you freinds were wise to get out of Facebook entirely becuase you have no idea what is going to offend somebody day by day.

  31. ProcurementEtc
    March 28, 2012

    it's really a no-mans land ripe for discrimination, abuse and lawsuits.  the replies regarding the IT guy proves the information will be used to discriminate against qualified people.  being a lousy parent isn't a crime; but many of the comments disqualify him as a candidate because of it.  I agree with Barbara, how the information is perceived and used appears to be very subjective.   I wonder if US anti-discrimination laws are nullified when you willfully provide information too.

    there seems to be no safeguards provided by the employer to protect the password nor id how it will be recorded and stored if at all.  without such protection and means of remedy in a legal document I'd be concerned some disgruntled employee could post immoral or illegal content.

    the case of the police dept. using FB makes me laugh – an organization that relies on dectective work can't use it to weed out candidates, see what current employees are up to like it did 6 months ago.  just comes across like everyone on the force suddenly suffered some intellectual breakdown and can no longer do their job without FB. May have been trying to be pioneers but just come across as incompetent.

  32. Anne
    March 29, 2012

    Honestly, requesting for facebook or any social media password is an illegal invasion of privacy.  What does my private life has to do with my employment? It's seems insulting.

  33. itguyphil
    March 30, 2012

    They should but this is the sign of the times. If there is a line to draw between having a private life OR professional, which would you choose?

  34. Susan Fourtané
    March 30, 2012

    Yes, Anne, it seems insulting to me, too, and definitely illegal, against basic notions of ethics. 

    -Susan 

  35. Susan Fourtané
    March 30, 2012

    pocharle, 

    Why should I choose? For centuries human beings have been entitled to having a private and professional life. All of a sudden, thanks to the new social media we have, what was known but not ventilated publicly was considered alright, or if not alright something that existed but it was not talked about. 

    Back to the case of teachers, some teachers have always complained about the school directives, class supervisors, even about some difficult students. All that was done in the privacy of a metting with a friend or with family members or with collegues in a teachers' meeting. No teacher got suspended or fired. They were just free to vent as anyone else. 

    Students do the same. They complain about school, directors, teachers, other students. I am not saying anything of this is good. I am saying it's just part of the bad and negative side of human beings. 

    Now just because people can vent on social media instead of in the café, home, meeting with collegues, friends, etc, they can be fired, suspended, taking to court, accused and most likely I am forgetting something. If this were the Middle Ages they would do worse things. 

    I probably have to think more about this but for now I will say that most of what people are complaining about is the result of their actions, in one way or another. 

    -Susan 

  36. Barbara Jorgensen
    March 30, 2012

    Rich, Susan et al: Good point about posts that users cannot control. Abuses of social media run rampant: two people in Fla. had to abandon their home becuase a famous person gave their address as belonging to an unpopular neighborhood watch participant; and someone claiming to be the actor Will Smith (is there a more ubiquitous name, other than Joe Smith?) started a similar ruckus. I think in these cases, asking forgiveness is not easier than asking permission. The damage done to a person's reputation by such abuses cannot be reversed. Until there is a way of verifying information on social media is accurate and posted by the user and only the user, accessing information as part of an application process is unfair, unadvisable and by Facebook's terms, illegal. The sooner this practice is tested in court and found to be illegal, the better.

  37. itguyphil
    March 30, 2012

    Yes. Most people would argue that the 'problem causers' are upset about there types of rules because they want the liberty to make poor decisions. Why you would want to leave the door open for that, I don't know but I also understand NOT wanting to be restricted in their lives (especially their personal lives).

  38. Susan Fourtané
    March 31, 2012

    Hi, Rich 

    Gosh! Something like that has to be done by someone who really hates you, and is very dedicated on top of not having much to do with his/her time. 

    “Oh, no! Your boss's Facebook profile says he hates his company! Looks like there may be room for a promotion in your life soon!” lol 

    We laugh about these things, but you might not be too far from reality in terms of ruining someone's life with fake profiles or fake comments. 

    I recently got a tweet from a friend whose account had been hacked sending a link where supposedly someone had been said something bad about me. It was spam, of course, but not nice anyway. 

    Then we have Twitter, where someone who disagreed with you on something starts tweeting as if he/she were a third grader, just for making your public image looks bad. And you can't do anything about that other than watch from the distance. 

    So what could be the lesson here? Sure there is  one. 

    -Susan


  39. Susan Fourtané
    March 31, 2012

    Yes, Barbara, and let's not forget all the time and energy all those things take. 

    -Susan

  40. Susan Fourtané
    March 31, 2012

    Rich, 

    We have been talking about companies asking for Facebook passwords quite extensively now, but how did this start? Who was the mastermind behind the first case? Do you know? I would very much like to know this. 

    Yes, companies should be forbidden from asking Facebook passwords or any login and password for that matter. 

    It's not only invasion to your privacy. It's invasion to your friends' privacy as well. Whoever has access to your profile has access to your private message with your friends, your friends' profiles, their information and evrything that they chose to share with you. A third person having access to that information is more than illegal and goes against any notion of ethics. 

    Oh, wait a minute, we are talking about people who have no clue about ethics or respect for others' privacy, aren't we? I wonder what kind of respect and trust those companies demand from their employees. Or this is a one way only kind of thing? 

    -Susan

  41. itguyphil
    March 31, 2012

    It's a slippery slope I tell you. I don't see Congress getting involved any time soon but lesser courts, maybe.

  42. Susan Fourtané
    April 1, 2012

    Rich, 

    Maybe that's the real reason we think there's a population explosion. They're all just fake profiles on Facebook.”

    Oh, I see! I was worrying about the world's water and food resources already, not to mention a tiny place where to live. If half of us are just Facebook fake profiles there is chance of survival.  Or would it be that we are living among virtual non-existent entities who think that if they have a Facebook they exist? 

    -Susan  

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