Hey, Get Out of My Face(book)


Outside of those protected categories, employers have pretty broad latitude in terms of what they can ask or investigate about a particular job applicant. They can't ask you where you go to church, but they can ask you what restaurants you like. They can ask you where you shop for shoes, or if you like soccer more than basketball, or if you swear frequently, or even a long series of Monty Python-like idiotic questions, like "what is your favorite color?" Actually they probably could legally ask you for most everything they might find out from your Facebook account. Employers don't do that, and never have, probably because before the advent of social networking sites it would take a great deal of time and effort to verify all of the answers to those questions. So the digital world does for intrusive employers exactly what it does for everyone else (in particular, divorce lawyers)–for better or for worse, it makes finding information very quick and easy.

I am fairly optimistic that there will be appropriate legislation on a federal level to curtail this practice, but having observed Congress for several decades, I'm just not convinced that it will occur in my lifetime.

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It may not be as simple as banning the asking of those kinds of questions, probably by creating a new protected category relating to the "expectation of privacy" based on the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Furthermore, as is the case with legislation dealing with employers checking the credit reports of job seekers, there may be some exceptions to a general rule. Most folks would agree that an employer hiring someone to handle money probably should be able to find out how he or she has met their obligations in the past, by checking his or her credit report. Similarly, I believe employers should have significant latitude in the case of people looking for jobs in the national security or intelligence area. Because of considerations such as these (as well as legislative gridlock in Washington generally), it may be years before there is a clear federal statute protecting us against employers looking to crawl onto our Facebook pages or into our e-mail accounts.

In the meantime, don't stand for it. Get angry. It is outrageous. Some commentators compare it to asking you for your house keys or your personal diaries.

You have more leverage than you think. Most employers, especially large companies , do not want employment hassles. Mostare really very careful to avoid asking you about those protected categories and asking you for your e-mail or social networking passwords could well violate THE EXISTING laws protecting those categories. And no company wants to be on the ACLU or EEOC's Most Wanted list.

Source: Credit.com (http://s.tt/18nPA)

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This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Adam Levin is chairman and cofounder of Credit.com and Identity Theft 911. His experience as former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs gives him unique insight into consumer privacy, legislation and financial advocacy. He is a nationally recognized expert on identity theft and credit.

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