Weekend Read: “May I have your password please?”

You have party plans this weekend. Let’s assume you have a kid or two, and they are at grandma’s. Time to blow off some steam.

The night starts out pretty chill, but after dinner with friends, shots are suggested. You look at your partner and say, “why not?”

You’re a little out of practice. You come in strong, then you go big.

Now everybody’s hammered.

Pictures are being taken and posted to Facebook.

It’s Sunday morning. You’re nursing that hangover, trying to rally because you have to go get the kid(s) at 11am. You look at your Wall.

Carnage!

***

 It’s Tuesday morning.

You have prepped for this interview for weeks. You have networked. You have checked out the company and its financials. You know about the new division planned to launch in Phoenix.

You are impeccably dressed, clear-eyed and focused. It’s showtime.

The interviewer engages you in breezy conversation. You feel like you’re connecting. Your confidence is up.

It’s almost time to end the interview.  Your host looks at you, emotion drained from their eyes.

“Can you provide me your Facebook name and password please?”

Gulp.

***

For some time now, we have had to  have had to confront the reality that what happens on social media sites doesn’t stay exclusively there. Sharing of images, especially awesome ones of you having the best time ever, tend to spread a lot more than you might think.

Let’s say you have 250 Facebook friends.

Each of them has 250 friends.

Your potential reach is 62,500 people- enough to comfortably fill San Francisco’s venerable Candlestick Park football stadium.

There are no laws on the books that say a potential employer cannot make this request. New Jersey, Illinois and Connecticut legislators are working on laws now, but next week, you could be asked to give up that information.

Even companies that do not make a direct request of you may still go fishing post-interview, utilizing the services of firms like Santa Barbara-based Social Intelligence . They help its corporate clients “gain a deeper insight into both professional and personal characteristics of potential employees, identifying negative behaviors and activities”.

Yikes.

Social Intelligence says it only uses public information,  but some other private employers are going further, asking potential employees for access to their Facebook right on the spot.

Facebook’s chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, today decried the practice.

At the interview, you could decline to hand over your information. The interviewer smiles and says, “That’s okay.”

You never hear from them again. Was it because they found a more suitable candidate, or…

This practice hopefully won’t last long. The legal  implications are unending; one massive lawsuit will quiet other companies.

But firms are still well within their right to use background screening companies to see what they can find, and you’d be amazed at what they can uncover.

3 out of four companies in a recent survey said they use social media reconnaissance to check out possible new employees. 88% of HR departments said they use LinkedIn.

That’s good news- I have not yet seen any half-naked Cancun vacation photos there.

A picture of you with a cocktail in your hand is not necessarily a bad thing, by the way.  That can show you like to have fun and hang out with friends. It’s the picture of you with a sock in your mouth, passed out, that can be dangerous.

Today (Friday) Facebook’s Ms. Egan said the organization found it “most alarming” that employers are bold enough to make these requests of us.

“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. That’s why we’ve made it a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password.”

We are entitled to a fundamental right to privacy. But social media use gives us the option of telling the world much, much more that we might think.

You are a mega-liberal. You post a screed about how much you loathe Republicans, complete with a few choice profanities.

You have an interview scheduled with a company whose HR manager loves Rush Limbaugh.

Danger.

Once you hit <send>, it’s up forever. All it takes is one share…

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