Social media is such a huge part of society now that as an employer you’ve probably checked out the Facebook profiles of all your employees or potential hires at one time or another. Maybe you even monitor them regularly. But with such concern over privacy, most people have gotten wise and adjusted their settings so no one but their “friends” can see the majority of their Facebook info and posts.
If you really want to know what your employees are doing on their Facebook profiles, what can you do if they’ve hidden everything from public view? Some employers are going further in their quest for social media monitoring, and they’re asking employees for their Facebook passwords. Should you do this?
Is It Legal?
Technically, yes. Employers who ask for Facebook passwords aren’t extremely popular around the water cooler. If you’re considering asking them, you probably don’t care too much about your reputation. But you should care about any potential legal ramifications, and right now there are none. Colorado Representative Ed Perlmutter recently proposed legislation to make it illegal for employers to require the Facebook passwords of their employees, and it was defeated. While Facebook says it’s a violation of its Terms of Service, Facebook can’t arrest you or shut down your business.
What Will You Gain?
If you require your employees’ Facebook passwords, how will you really benefit from being able to read their messages and see their wall posts? Do their personal interactions and use of Facebook really affect the quality or integrity of their work for you? Depending on their position, it might, but for most employees their social media usage isn’t going to make a big difference for you. In fact, most people already censor their activity online to be appropriate for their boss’ eyes, just in case, so you’re not likely to uncover anything salacious.
How Would It Work?
You can’t just ask all your employees to give up their Facebook passwords and let that be the end of it. There are lots of potential complications you need to consider. Will you fire anyone who doesn’t comply? Is that legal? And while the majority of people have Facebook accounts, some lone wolves still don’t. How can you enforce your rules fairly when some people might not even have a Facebook password? And once you have their passwords, what’s to stop them from changing their passwords tomorrow?
What About Privacy and Protection?
In the world of social media and the Internet, passwords are extremely personal, valuable, and private. Everyone knows that giving out your password means you’re putting your security and identity at risk. It seems to be a bit unfair to ask your employees to trust you with something so sacred. How can you ensure them that their password and profiles are safe with you? Can you really guarantee that the information won’t fall into the wrong hands?
After all this, if you still believe asking employees for their Facebook passwords is the way to go, tread lightly. There’s a line between work lives and personal lives, and it might be in your best interest not to cross it.
Mark Weatherford is a high school english teacher and published author who enjoys blogging in his spare time. He is also a grammar fanatic and he often suggests his students check their work using a grammar checker. Mark is also a fanatic of frozen food as he is a terrible cook.
Image Credit: 1.