Social Media Privacy and Employers – The New Conundrum

In March, Facebook Inc.’s Chief Privacy Officer, Erin Egan said, “We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think it’s the right thing to do”. Even government officials are weighing in on the issue. New York Senator Charles Schumer and Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal composed a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice stating that they are, “…drafting legislation that would fill any gaps in Federal law that allow employers to require personal login information from prospective employees to be considered for a job.”

As a business owner, you want to hire quality employees that share your company’s vision and can help contribute to its success. Employee productivity is declining while labor costs are rising, according to a Price Waterhouse Coopers 2012/2013 US Human Capital Effectiveness report. Therefore, hiring the right employee is critical to helping you reach those goals.

After all, a resume only tells so much about a potential hire. You may “Google” the candidate to peruse his or her digital footprint, which is not against the law, but requesting login of an employee’s social media accounts may put you at more risk than it is worth. Before going forward, ask yourself the following:
• Are there interview questions that I or HR can legally ask that would address any concerns that I’d be looking for if I did access this person’s privatized social media accounts?
• What is the law in my state and at a federal level concerning this practice?
• Am I able to fill the position on a temporary-to-permanent hire basis to give me an opportunity to see the candidate in action including displays of personality and character?

Your business is the most valuable investment you have. While you are trying to protect your business from the wrong type of employee, you subsequently may be putting it in harm’s way – therein lies the conundrum. On a bright note, the same PWC Report also states that, “…the quality of new hires has improved during the past five years.” Trust your instincts and that of your HR staff.

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