Monday, April 9, 2012

Facebook Passwords and Privacy

One of the things that I always talk about is that you ought to separate your professional and personal lives. For many of us, this might mean that we want to have multiple profiles online, and perhaps make sure we separate those profiles.

I have separate blogs for different parts of my life. This blog is dedicated to the Modern Resume and branding, I have a blog for my running, a blog for my personal life, and a professional blog at I used Twitter and LinkedIn for professional work, but I reserve Facebook for connecting with friends.

Sidebar: If you can’t see much of my profile, it’s because I limit what I show in Facebook to non-friends. Also, if you haven’t met my family, or had a meal with me, I won’t accept friend requests.

I’ve seen recently that some employers are asking for your profile information on Facebook and other sites. I know that this can be a cause of concern, and while there are any number of places to get advice, here’s what I would do:

Politely decline in an interview, or at your place of employment - I would note that my Facebook profile is private correspondence with my friends and family. It is not visible to everyone, and not public information. I would point the employer to my professional, and public, presences.

Provide an analogy - Ask your employer if they would expect to require you to have listening devices in your home or on your person during off hours. Ask if your employer expects to be able to come to your house and view videos or scrap books that you’ve shown friends.  The postings on a private site, like Facebook, are the digital equivalent.

Agree to Remove your Professional Information - You should not use your private profile to identify your employer. Just as you want your privacy, so should they, and you may consider including a disclaimer on your profile. Here’s what I have on Facebook:

The opinions, links, status updates, thoughts, and comments  posted here are my own opinion and to not reflect on my employer.

If you want to show your employer your profile so they can see this, feel free, but I would just sign something to this effect. Note that this would imply you should not have a current employer listed on private social networks.

If required, cite Federal Law - Forcing someone to give a password does not constitute authorization, and I would ensure that if my employer forced this issue and I couldn’t quit, I would get the request in writing. Prior to signing this or handing over the password, I would cite Section 18 of the United States Code, Item 1030, which deals with computer fraud. Accessing someone’s account without their consent, is a violation of this law.

Ultimately it’s up to you to handle this, and you can do what you want, but I would encourage you to think about this before you get asked.

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