Conceived in a college dorm room just more than 8 years ago, Facebook has become an integral part of many of our daily lives. While privacy of information shared on Facebook has been in the news for several years now, recent reports have surfaced of potential employers asking for, and at times demanding, access to the Facebook accounts of prospective employees.
With an estimated 41.6 percent of the U.S. population now on Facebook, the potential to misuse personal information found on Facebook is immense. Personal information such as race, religion and marital status are federally protected, but access to one’s Facebook account easily shows this information. Unfortunately, current privacy laws remain murky in this debate, and this must change for the protection of job seekers.
As personal information of the primary account holder is at the heart of the debate, the typical Facebook user has an average of 120 “friends” whose personal information is also at risk when employers attempt to monitor the usage of employees. Beyond the exposure of one’s Facebook friends and the legal connotations that come with it, a question of appropriate behavior and the relevance of the information gained still exists.
Whether protected by law or not, employers engaging in such practices are violating a trust. Much of the personal information gained from Facebook and other social media will likely have little relevance to the job at hand. Gathering this data conforms to the trend of eroding privacy — ultimately, privacy laws must be updated for the digital age. Employers have numerous tools to protect themselves; now employees need the same.