Are Facebook Access Requests in Job Interviews Illegal?

Two Democratic Senators are asking the Justice Department whether the increasing practice of potential employers asking for social media access from interviewees is illegal.

Senators Chuck Schumer and Richard Blumenthal are calling for an investigation based on whether asking for such access breaches existing privacy legislation. Illinois and Maryland are also mulling legislation to ban the practice.

Under existing employment law, employers cannot ask about an applicant’s religious beliefs, ethnicity, whether he or she has kids, or whether the person has any physical disabilities — all of which may be available on a social media profile.

Reports of the practice of asking for access, particularly to Facebook, have been growing and in a tight job market interviewees may feel forced to comply.

Bloomberg reports that it is a requirement to hand over your login and password if you want to work for the Virginia State Police.

Corinne Geller, spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, tells them:

“It’s a virtual character check as much as the rest of the process is a physical background check.”

Bloomberg reports on others doing it but says that one, the Maryland Division of Correction, changed it when an applicant contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and complained.

More surreptitious practices include University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill insisting that an applicant ‘friend’ a designated coach or administrative official on Facebook so that he or she can monitor their pages.

Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the ACLU, says that the practice is relatively new and that regarding government jobs: ”when the government is the employer, people have the constitutional right not to be subjected to unreasonable searches.”

Lori Andrews, a law professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law specializing in Internet privacy, tells AP she is concerned about the pressure placed on applicants, even if they voluntarily provide access to social sites.

“Volunteering is coercion if you need a job,” Andrews said.

Facebook called the practice “distressing” and says it is against their policy to share or solicit account passwords — and they don’t do it during interviews.

Related stories:

FTC Gets Serious About Do Not Track Privacy Protections

Dear Mark, End Facebook’s Restrictive Gender Labels

Yahoo Sues Facebook: “Dastardly” or “Business As Usual”?

Image: Wikipedia


Annmari Lundin
Annmari L5 years ago

Forget I tell a future employer my password, let alone if I'm on Facebook. The latter they can check by searching my name (and they do). Giving out my password(s)? Not even to a spouse!

Hello G.
Hello G5 years ago


Sarah M.
Sarah M5 years ago

It is illegal! Enough said.

madeleine watt
Madeleine watt5 years ago

It should already be illegal and if they (employers want to press the issue DELETE YOUR ACCOUNT. We the people do still have some rights dang it or isn't what we write another form of speech? Who knows in this current world. If a company can have a patent on a cancer gene yet not have to "reclaim" it for free when it "wanders" into some poor women's body then there's no justice here anymore.

Sam Richardson

It should already be covered under the EXISTING laws against invasion of privacy! It's wrong for a company to ask for Facebook passwords - if that were to happen any other way, it would be a CRIME because someone is hacking into your account!

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L5 years ago


Hello G.
Hello G5 years ago

Thanks, new tech = new rules, what next!

Virginia B.
Virginia B5 years ago

My question: who has the time to mess around with "Facebook"? I have avoided it like the plague! It's just one more way to "fritter away" precious time. That "ap" sucks one in like quicksand!

Mercedes Lackey
Mercedes Lackey5 years ago

If you absolutely MUST have Facebook establish a gmail account in a pseudonym that you only use for Facebook. Then establish your Facebook account in that pseudonym. Then when you are asked for your Facebook information tell them you aren't on it.

Edith B.
Edith B5 years ago

This is a total invasion of privacy.