Is Requiring Social Media Passwords Bad for Business?



Quick question: How secure would you feel about your job if your boss demanded, without warning, access to your Facebook account in its entirety? 

Most of us plugged in to social media have heard the buzz about businesses requiring job applicants to reveal their Facebook passwords as a condition of employment. What may not be as obvious is why this practice is becoming increasingly popular. 

Research has shown that Facebook profiles are better indicators of future job performance than standardized tests, which naturally encourages recruiters and human resources departments to monitor social media in screening practices.

Legal issues aside, this may be a dead-end exercise.

People only feel as free to honestly express themselves as the expectation that they won’t be judged for it will allow. And whether this means that some applicants will walk away when demanded their passwords or voluntarily offer it to gain the competitive edge in job hunting, screeners can never be satisfied that they will ever have a completely truthful picture of the job seeker until they be assured that they are looking at the most private aspects of that person’s life.

So where does it end? If requiring social media site passwords becomes standard practice, then new venues and channels will be needed to inspect and exploit. Aside from various three-letter agencies and other highly visible or ethically sensitive professions, businesses should carefully consider the wisdom of requiring applicants to disclose their Facebook passwords—whether the practice is truly worth the risk of the added discrimination and liability concerns that might follow hiring decisions.

Likewise, applicants should know what’s at stake when they volunteer access to their social media networks, and how to respond appropriately when asked.