In an unprecedented about face move, Facebook is standing up in favor of employee and job applicant privacy rights against bullying employers. The problem is festering, with an increasing number of employers demanding from Facebook the passwords of their employees and applicants for job openings.
AP reported earlier this week in detail many situations where job applicants were asked for their usernames and passwords. This is without a doubt an invasion of privacy. Even though we all realize that employers have long been investigating their employees’ activities on social networks, this is a new twist on it. Until now, employers have had to glean what they could from the publicly available information exposed by the employee by their own freedom of choice. Facebook announced that it might change its policy or even take the employers to court to stop them requesting such invasive information.
Now all of its critics are going to have to give Facebook credit in the one area that the company has most sharply been beaten over the head publicly with screams of right to privacy. Now Facebook is finally doing the right thing, for whatever reason. We must assume the intentions has some other than noble source, since they have to date ignored this very same concern for their users.
Certainly the public statement made by Chief Privacy Officer of Facebook, Erin Egan, made everyone laugh, “Facebook takes your privacy seriously.” As everyone was falling out of their seats, bursting with incredulous laughter, he continued, “You can bet we will take appropriate measures to protect the privacy and security of our users. This applies to…” I am sure he wanted to tell us all how serious he was and to stop laughing, but we could barely hear his words over the roar. “…to policymakers and even legal action to slap the hands of those abusing the application processes.” Some of it was unintelligible, but we got the gist enough to know it was one big joke.
At least one Senator takes this seriously. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, is spearheading a piece of legislation to foist employers who disrespect the concept of the right of privacy. He declared is an “absurd penetration of privacy from a rear door.” Of course, we all broke out in a bigger roar, rolling on the floor and slapping each other on the back. We are certain the Senator did not intend the sexual innuendo.
What is Facebook thinking of? Passing around a user’s password, even your own is a violation of the user agreement. Soliciting the password (a.k.a. Asking for the password) of a user is likewise against the user agreement.
Gaining access to private communications between two people exposes the other person who is not involved in the job application process to an invasion of privacy against their will. This may lay the employer open to a law suit, according to Facebook, and is at the heart of the reason why the user agreement forbids soliciting passwords or sharing them.
Facebook admits that they have not even considered suing any particular company, which shows this may just be a show to alter public consciousness about Facebook’s attitude on privacy.