The Privacy Blur of Personal Information

It seems like every day there are new stories of the ongoing privacy battles between online service providers and their individual users.  Facebook always seems to take heat from the public anytime is makes a change to its privacy agreement.   Google has been taking flak for recent changes allowing it to track users across all of its services, allowing Google to create a profile of users and their interests purposed for extremely targeted marketing.  However, a new battle is brewing around the online privacy of individuals versus those who employ (or will potentially employ) them.

In the last few weeks, there have been a few different stories about whether employers are overstepping their boundaries.  There was the teacher who was fired for refusing to give out her Facebook password because a parent who was also a Facebook friend saw a private image they thought was inappropriate and complained to the school.  There also seems to be a new pattern emerging for potential employers asking candidates for their Facebook passwords during the interview or screening process.

The tracking of our online activity is one thing.  Demanding a personal password to gain access to something not pertaining to the workplace (at least in most cases) is another beast in itself.  It can be compared to demanding access to your bank account, or even your medical records.  It is a breach of privacy and a huge violation of trust between employers and employees.

 On one hand, I understand that businesses want to make sure that those they employ don’t do anything to embarrass these companies or create bad PR for them.  I previously wrote about a woman who was fired because she criticized her employer on her Facebook page.  In that particular case, what she posted was public for others to see.  The internet has been around for so long that by now, we should all realize that if we post negative public information about the companies or individuals we work for, it could be used against us when it comes to our job security or future employment opportunities. 

On the other hand, Facebook has the private settings for a reason.  Some communications or images we post are not meant for the public.  For example, people may post something to their spouse which they would never share with anyone else.  The only thing accomplished by demanding these personal passwords is that these businesses are creating toxic work environments for themselves. 

I’ve mentioned the ABCD’s of the TrustWorks! model previously, but I want to specifically point out “B – Believable” element in reference to this topic: 

Act with Integrity.  Trustworthy leaders are honest with others. They behave in a manner consistent with their stated values, apply company policies fairly, and treat people equitably. “Walking the talk” is essential in building trust in relationships.”- Randy Conley, www.leadingwithtrust.com

The integrity seems to be missing component from these types of demands. 

With that being said, I want to leave you with a hypothetical situation.  Let’s say I was a hiring manager for your potential dream job.  The job consists of everything you’ve wanted to do.  It has your ideal salary and the perfect benefits package:

Don’t forget to cast your vote, and as always, be sure to leave your comments!

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  • Comments (5)
    • Kelly
    • April 13th, 2012

    I have chosen not to have a Facebook account so my answer is Not Applicable but I do feel that it is inappropriate for them to ask and would become hesitant about working for a company that would ask.

    • You are definitely not the only one, Kelly! I know quite a few people who have chosen not to have a Facebook page (or any type of social networking profile, for that matter) due to privacy concerns. It still amazes me how much information people post of themselves online, such as their current locations. It makes them easy targets for individuals that are potentially up to no good.

    • Keith
    • April 13th, 2012

    I chose “it depends” – I do not like the idea of an employer coursing through my personal online profile BUT if I was desperate for a job I would think twice before saying no!

    • Thank you for your comment, Keith! I could probably see myself considering the same thing if I was desparate for a job.

      However, the additional question I would want to ask you is if you’re willing to give out that social networking password, what if I also asked you for access to your email account and online banking? Where do we draw the line if this continues to be a trend?

  1. I don’t do FB, but wouldn’t if I did. Just as I wouldn’t give them my password to Twitter, gmail, . . . I don’t care who they are and how good the job seems – neither can be that good if they’re asking me that question.

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