Employers Want Your Facebook Password

PrivacyUPDATED: Facebook weighs in.

Candidates are being asked with alarming frequency to share their Facebook logins with employers. It’s becoming a widespread practice that’s not limited to tech by any means, which represents a dangerous development in your efforts to separate your personal and professional lives.

“It’s akin to requiring someone’s house keys,” Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor, told the AP.

The Justice Department says it’s a crime to access a social networking site if doing so violates its terms of service. Giving out your Facebook login does just that. But legal experts say the terms don’t have any real standing, and the Justice Department has said it won’t prosecute.

So, what can you do? Not a lot, unfortunately. Right now, companies can pass on hiring if you don’t play by their rules. You could keep your profiles squeaky clean, of course, though that kind of defeats the purpose of Facebook. Though you could argue what’s private in your account really is no business of anyone besides you, employers aren’t likely to care what you say.

In other words, you don’t have many choices here — except to pass on the job.

Am I missing something? Do you have another way to approach this? Share your thoughts by posting a comment below.

40 Responses to “Employers Want Your Facebook Password”

  1. Ward Galanis

    Several alternatives:
    1) A personal facebook account and a public facebook account. My personal is for friends and family, mainly to keep track of my nieces and nephews. Keep the public one squeaky clean.
    2) Delete your account
    3) Don’t have one in the first place. Most of what I see is inane anyway.

  2. Proud Paulbot

    Frankly, unless you are applying for a job as a covert operative, there is no reasonable explanation an employer can give for wanting to dig *this* deeply into your personal life. Before handing over your login information to a potential employer, you need to ask yourself exactly what kind of work environment you’re walking into. If they’re going to dig this deeply into your personal life before they even hire you, what’s going to happen after you’re working there?

  3. I know lots of folks that have personal and professional FB identities. I agree with Proud Paulbot – I don’t want to work for a place that would ask this of me. And if I ever did get that desperate…. Naw…I don’t think I will ever get that desperate. To comply with that kind of intrusion is to encourage the wrong kind of behavior by employers.

  4. this is totally pathetic… people have to take a stand and just simply not comply! What we tolerate, can’t be changed…

    Where do the draw the line with taking liberties such as this?

    If a prospective employer or client wants my credientials to anything other than a credit check and background check (my profession deals with confidential information), I don’t want to work for them, no matter how bad the economy is…

  5. The solution is a private facebook account with your first name and a nickname as last name. Use your personal email address for this. The set up another account with a professional email address. Use it for generic things regarding career and weather.
    It is a very contentious work environment. Employers know that many of us need jobs. I have been looking for a job and I have never in the past 15 years had so many negative interactions with potential employers. They seem to be asking for a modern day slave.

  6. Franklin David Marks

    No employer gets access to my accounts for any reason whatsoever. Thankfully nobody has asked yet for a Facebook login, but my reply would be rather simple: “No. Perhaps you however, would like to share your WellsFargo passcode? I didn’t think so.”

  7. something or other

    if any sysadmin, network admin, programmer — anyone in IT really — is willing to share their fb credentials, they don’t take IT security seriously and don’t deserve to be hired.

    • Guy Smiley

      Thats a good point. It could also be a great question for a IT Interview. If they’ll give up their password that easily, how can you trust them with the *admin* password?
      As a former CIO pointed out to me once, “There’s no performence improvement program for IT”. If they can’t trust you, you have to go. Immediately.

  8. McVaaahhh

    I agree with most of everyone. Asking for you FB password is no different than asking for your personal email password, and nobody would ever dream of doing that.

    I would walk out of the interview if I was told it was going to be expected of me. I would simply reply with “Thank you for your time, but I no longer believe this position is the best fit for me.”

    • Proud Paulbot

      I would do the same thing. I walked out of an interview with a temp agency last year after they told me I’d need to pay–upfront, in cash–for my own drug test and background check. When I balked, they said it was because “too many” of their applicants cannot pass criminal background checks, and they could not afford to keep paying for failed tests. (Yes, they actually said this.)

      This made me wonder if, when inmates are released from the state prison, they are given a bus ticket to this agency….

  9. Franklin Nelson

    I have been advised legally that I can respond with a polite no and let the employer know that there in violation of the STORED COMMUNICATIONS ACT.


    Please read and pass it around. Also If asked that question you can also respond with a polite retort of sure but first may I have yours? This question is just as fair because the interview also is the potential employee reviewing the personal information of his potential superior.

    • Thank you for that information Franklin. I’ll be saving that (and possibly sharing it on my Facebook- lol). And I thought of the same thing you did too – “May I have yours? After all, we both need to be sure our working relationship would be a good fit.”

  10. I suspect what they REALLY want is for you to “friend” them so they could read your site. I wouldn’t do that, either, because I keep my personal and professional lives separate.

    But there is no–and I mean NO–benevolent reason for anyone to want your password. That would give them carte blanche to post anything they wanted in your name, make purchases with your stored credentials, and heaven knows what other mayhem.

    Seriously? I’ve never been asked for either my password or simple read-only access to personal accounts (or professional ones, for that matter), but if a potential employer asked for my password, I believe my only correct option would be to ask for his/her name again (or stare pointedly at the business card, if one had been provided). Then I would write a letter to the CEO explaining why I would never work for that company. I would name names. I did complain to a CEO once about an interview practice, and the company did eventually drop that practice.

    • Aisha Leach

      Great comment! As an HR professional I find this practice just plain stupid. It’s a violation of Title VII protection because it would allow a potential employer insight into your religious beliefs, family size, affiliations, etc.

      I would also inform the employer that providing that information would be a violation to your right to protection under Title VII AND send a letter to the CEO!

  11. Assuming this is true, and it is not a test of your basic knowledge of security, give them a fake password. That is logically the same as giving them your real password and immediately changing it. They won’t ask you not to change it until they have had a chance to ruin your life, will they?

  12. Is there seriously no recourse to this? Isn’t it illegal to even ask my age or religion? How can this possibly be legal? It doesn’t matter that my Facebook is squeaky clean – to me. They don’t have the legal (or moral) right to judge my professional performance from my private friends, interests, and opinions. And they are absolutely not getting my password. Why not the keys to my house too? Need my bank PIN? After all – seeing the deposits and withdrawals from my bank account should give them good insight into my professional performance, right? And make sure I’m a good housekeeper and eat healthy food? But not too healthy of course – that might indicate an excessively-principled crackpot.

  13. Most of these replies are made by people with jobs I would imagine. Try being out of work for 18 months, no interviews even and then getting an interview. Are you REALLY to going take the (possibly long, possibly not so long) chance of blowing your interview over this? I think not.

    I am in this position and I know I would not.

    • I don’t know about the other people replying, but I do not currently have a job and I’m looking. And I think I would probably still, even in the near-panic that I’m in right now, refuse to comply with such an outrageous and inappropriate demand. I would refuse in the cleverest and most polite way I can manage – but I would refuse. I would point out the extreme irresponsibility and lack of professionalism of an IT professional sharing passwords – as others in this comments thread have already pointed out. And I would ask if their legal department had reviewed this policy. And I would invite them to log on and view my public Facebook and see for themselves there is no threat to their reputation posed by my Facebook activities. Before the subject has even come up I would invite them to connect with me on LinkedIn and show them my LinkedIn profile (employers only – I don’t like to give recruiting agencies access to my LinkedIn contacts and risk losing those contacts).

    • Aisha Leach

      Rick are you really going to let an employer off the hook that easily. If you decline to provide it because you feel it violates your right to privacy and you don’t get the job you have a basis for a complaint. If you do provide the password and don’t get the job you still have a basis for a complaint. I was at one point unemployed for 20 months so I know where you’re coming from. But that doesn’t mean you have to exchange your privacy for paycheck.

    • Proud Paulbot

      Job? What’s that?

      I haven’t had a job in years. I did contract work while attending university. After I got out, I found out I was unemployable in the tech field. After a year of slamming my head into a brick wall–and ruining my credit–I gave up on finding one. I’m doing gigs. I’m basically a white-collar General Laborer (though I’ll do physical labor, too; work is work).

      I would much rather do what I am doing than work in an environment where the “employer” demands to be a part of the most private aspects of my life. The thing about jobs like that is, they don’t last.

  14. KYoldguy

    Bad stuff. Even if my profile and photos are all G-rated, this gives a potential employer a peek at personal info of your friends. Think carefully about that before complying. As bad as you may want a job, do you ethically have the right to open a door to the personal info of others without their consent? Should the DOJ turn a blind eye to this aspect of the situation? What say you, Mr. Orwell?

    • jexxica

      great point – i’d also love to know which companies are participating in this type of sluttery? i would like to abstain, as a consumer, from using their products or services.

  15. You shouldn’t put anything on the internet that you are not proud of people…….duh. And I don’t blame an employer for wanting to see the type of person you really are – They are hiring you and they have a right to know WHO YOU really are. The hardest part of owing a business if finding good people. I think it is a great way for an employer to weed out good hard working responsible people from the frauds, delinquents and losers who clean up well for a job interview but spend the rest of their time partying and other appropriate things. BUT – I think I will log on to all my social sites and double check that there is nothing posted that is inappropriate just in case as I am looking for a job too and I am guilty of not ALWAYS behaving……..lol.

    • Sorry Jen, but no, they do not have the right to know what my religion is, what my political affiliation is, or anything else like that. I have nothing on my Facebook that I’m ashamed of. It is who I am. That is a logical fallacy – to say that if a person wants their private life to remain private, that they must be covering something they are ashamed of. But I am STILL not going to give over my password – access to my private life – to an employer or potential employer.

      I would suggest that companies who are thinking this way, and who feel they are having trouble finding “good people” – especially in this current Employer’s market – might have far deeper problems that are interfering with their recruiting. Or else their definition of “good people” in the context of employment is flawed. But that’s my opinion, as a person who is quite skilled and definitely a prize of an employee – and will not work for such a company.

    • Proud Paulbot

      This goes WAY beyond being careful about what is posted publicly. Many people, like me, have our Facebook accounts “locked down.” Only my friends can see my posts, and only friends of friends can even find me on a Facebook search. These employers are asking to dig into truly private information.

      Would you feel comfortable with your employer asking for your personal email login information? What about them asking to come to your home and “inspect” it, and/or interview your family, neighbors and friends? Or maybe they’d like to intercept your postal mail and see your voter registration information.

      I stand by what I said: unless you are applying to be a covert agent, there is no reason for an employer to DEMAND to intrude this intimately. And I cringe to think what kind of workplace they’re running; I cannot imagine what it would be like to actually work at a place that does this.

    • jexxica

      Jen – surely you must be joking & are playing devil’s advocate! The bit about Facebook serving as an accurate measure of WHO YOU really are gave you away….jokster! you would also be okay with a deeply embedded tracking device that records your every action, thought, spoken word and GPS coordinates, right? now that would actually give you a pretty accurate profile assessment to hand to all your future employers that will end up progressively violating rights you never even thought were plunderable.

      let’s be sensible – Whether you are an intelligent, honest, hardworking reality-centric adult, a low IQ’d pregnant middle schooler repeating 7th grade for the third time or a 80 year old Catholic Priest that covertly runs a gay escort service, you are cognizant that internet is the one place you can be whomever you’d like to be. ANYBODY! even an anime celebrity rock star!

      I don’t think i’d be knocking anyone’s socks off if i went ahead and revealed that some people have several different facebook accounts for all the different personalities they present to the world. Others simply disable their FACEBOOK to appear FACEBOOKLESS until hired and then the social debutantes seem to be good about making sure they sparkle with fictitious make believe with one simple account. the possibilities of persona hijackings and fabrications are simply endless. but you probably know that….All the real sociopaths, liars and thieves have the whole “deceptively crafted social persona” thing down. Their interview was nothing compared to the bullshit they have had years to polish for any variety of online viewer that gets trapped tangled in their web.

      The only people that would actually hand over their passwords would be the honest hard working easy to manipulate employees – they are great for low wage type duties we now send overseas. their lack of backbone is limiting to a company on a meaningful visionary level. and the appropriately edited “snakes in suits” face-bookers are a corporate toxic nightmare.

      the employees that are worth hiring are the ones that make no excuses for who they are. they are not concerned about “appropriate” online presence. They are busy changing the world. If they party, dance, give illogical sermons re: one sex missing a rib, race rattlesnakes on slides of Jello or walk on water with virgins, why do i care? i’d think its fantastic he tolerates those too stupid to look up human anatomy online to fact check his nonsense.

      call me crazy but i’m fairly confident that a standard “criminal background check” might be a more accurate predictor of trouble to come. last time i checked, they don’t allow citizens to “color” pretty pictures and creatively edit their arrest documentation and court records. these legal documents do not afford the luxury that you have admitted to w your Facebook account. It does not allow modifications resulting in an “appropriate” public facing criminal record. either way, I would likely have to hire you before I learned you were the liar that i would for sure want to avoid hiring.

      any executive leader is NOT playing with a full deck of cards if they envision revenue spikes spawned from Facebook snooping. expectations that Facebook profile analysis will scientifically predict the usefulness of human capital is almost as insanely ignorant a job applicant that thinks its a great idea. this job applicant clearly believes that lying, deception and a sassy Facebook add-on APP is a skill set they can proudly offer. they like the idea because it finally gives them the advantage that only being the biggest liar on the planet can bring. i always avoid these psuedo-humans – they aren’t technically people and are endlessly uninteresting. they are just manipulative schemers who don’t know that their skin of imagined superiority looks a little loose and frumpy….whether the facade looks more Gloria Vanderbilt or more Armani. they could be an on-the-job da Vinci. i”d rather make a mistake than allow CHOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE biographies to dictate my hiring decisions. mistakes teach you not to make mistakes.

  16. Scott S.

    So if they want to lose out on an excellent employee, their loss. I would NEVER give a ‘possible’ employer access to my FB page. That is why there are privacty settings. Next thing they’ll want to know is what is in my refridgerator and try to justify it by saying that they’ll get lower group insurance rates if they can prove their employees are eating correctly.

    I already won’t be hired by many hospitals due to smoking and I’m not quitting anytime soon. I enjoy and it is the ‘worst’ thing I do. Other than nicotine and caffeine, there are NO drugs in my system. Hell I don’t even go to bars on Friday and Saturdays nights and I ALWAYS show up clean, sober and ready to work on Monday mornings; EVERY Monday!!

    If an employer insists….see ya!!!

  17. 1. The OP never replied to the question about which businesses are doing this or what information the article was based on. I have my doubts that this is a common problem. Any employer who tries this runs a very high risk of losing the potential employee in whom they’ve invested a lot of time and resources to bring in. Even worse, if the person is hired, the relationship starts off set up for distrust and disloyalty. I can’t see any truly professional HR department making this kind of mistake. At least not for professional hires.

    2. If you are looking for a job then adjust your FB appropriately. Even if you are not searching for a job you need to be fully aware of who can and can’t access which pieces your FB information. For instance, if you allow “friends of friends” access to areas of your FB then your boss very likely has access to those areas. A smart HR department will search for as much information as they can get on any employee and they have the right and obligation to do so. Proceed accordingly.

  18. I remember saying on principle I would never take a pre-employment drug test (late 80s/early 90s before they were standard fare). It was not long before almost every employer required this testing regardless of the job. This could turn out the same if enough people comply. Privacy is relative – we willingly give away information every day, for free!, that would shock our elders.

  19. Frank from Oyster Bay

    So many thoughts… THIS is what the Internet is good for!

    1. Is this truly a widespread or growing phenomenon, or a newsworthy urban legend? I’ve see nothing but anecdotal evidence.

    2. Would any such potential employer have an issue with one’s disclosing the ID and password to their account on that employer’s computer systems, say, to a subsequent potential employer who “wants to see the quality of your work?” Turnabout’s fair play, isn’t it?

    3. Regarding an environment of mutual distrust: the only time I was required to take a pre-employment polygraph test was by an employer whose several levels of management willfully and thoroughly lied to me about the nature of the job. I can’t trust someone who won’t trust me.

    4. Sure, you can “vote with your feet” and refuse to work for an employer with this onerous requirement, but what if the employer makes this demand after you’ve been hired? Refusal then, if it doesn’t lead to immediate dismissal, could easily result in punitive assignments, untrue appraisals, loss of opportunities for raise or promotion, etc., and your options are severely limited at that point.

    5. Like the S.A.T. Exam impostor scandal, this may be an offense by a very few bad apples that results in legislation that affects all employers… and cries of “Nanny State!” (What are the odds that such legislation is proposed by elected officials who have taxpayer-paid staff read and print out their emails?)

    6. An appropriate response to a demand for one’s Facebook password would be to use the Internet to publicize the offending employer’s behavior, preferably in forums where other potential employees would be likely to see: job-search sites, industry-related message boards and Usenet forums, and so on.

    7. Why stop with Facebook passwords? Why not demand the passwords to one’s email, or voicemail? The same B.S. excuse could be used to justify these demands, too.

  20. Daleinaz

    I don’t have anything on FB that I would not want an employer to see. But NO WAY are they getting my password. They are free to look at what (I have chosen to make) available to the public but they are not editing any of it. I wonder if this was a test to see if people would comply, and if so, don’t hire them. After all, if they will give a *potential* employer a FB password, what’s to stop them from giving a friend or future employer a password from a work account?
    Just like if you are having an affair with a married person, and they leave their spouse to marry you, do you know what you’ll have? A spouse who cheats on their spouse. Don’t be surprised when the cycle repeats itself. Same logic here. If a person gives out confidential information, and you hire them, don’t be surprised when they give out confidential information again.