TagSocial Network

How much privacy is your pay check worth?

I’ve been seeing more and more stories about job seekers getting asked for Facebook passwords

and I thought it might have only been a poor choice by a single company. But judging by this story, it has been commonplace to ask interviewees for their Facebook credentials in job interviews. This is purportedly to check for gang affiliations, illegal activity or anything that could “damage the image of the employer” during the process of vetting the applicant.

I think this is a dirty trick against desperate people in a bad economy.

Vetting Candidates

I understand where the companies are coming from. Interviewing is difficult. The process of whittling down hundreds or thousands of applicants to a manageable number to phone screen is maddening. To further get a list of people to interview in person is even more difficult. Even after multiple interviews, the employer is still hiring an unknown person and hoping for the best. This is also why probationary periods exist for new hires.
There is no guarantee the person will be a good fit, is trustworthy and is worth the time and energy invested to hire them. Vetting candidates is hard, time-consuming work. However, it needs to be done legally and ethically. If you play games to hire people, you won’t always get the best employee but you will get the best game player.

Expectations of Privacy

There is no expectation of privacy on corporate networks. This should not extend into personal lives.

When you’re at work, you are on company time and company equipment. Don’t expect anything you do to be private. This is not to say that anyone in IT is watching your browsing habits or reading your email. They have far better things to do and are way too busy to be randomly poking around mailboxes and file servers.

Some employers employ monitoring software in addition to the nannyware to block access to social networks, video game sites and pornography. These are the things you’ve seen. Though, behind the scenes there can be software tracking the amount of time you’re spending on various sites or places you’re visiting on the web.

There is a huge difference between monitoring the activity of employees while at work and prying into the personal lives of potential employees. I can understand the desire of an employer to see what they’re getting when they hire. But what they’re asking is for akin to asking for a copy of your house key, car key and bank PIN.

Think of all the things sitting in your email account. How many accounts are tied to that email? Where are your password reset emails sent? Where are your bank statements sent? How many passwords to other systems are sitting inside your email at this very moment.

Now give your email password to a stranger. This is the same as providing your Facebook password to a stranger on the street.

It doesn’t stop there

Access to a Facebook account doesn’t stop with the personal messages, pictures, notes and information within Facebook. Having access to your Facebook account also grants this unknown person access to any site you’ve used Facebook to login to.

Login to your Facebook account and go to Account Settings, then Apps, or use this link to see the applications connected to your account. If your account is anything like mine, that’s a pretty long list. By granting access to Facebook, you’ve also potentially granted access to all of these applications as well.

Optional

Employers are calling the request for passwords optional. They are not requiring applicants to turn over their passwords. However, if a Facebook password stands between feeding your family and your privacy, you’re going to feed your family.

There is a long list of things which can’t legally be asked in interviews including what religion do you practice, what social organizations do you belong to, how old are you, are you married, do you have kids, what do your parents do for a living, do you smoke or drink, do you use illegal drugs, how much do you weigh, how far is your commute, and have you ever been arrested?

There are a lot of areas off limits to interviewers and a lot of ways to bend those rules to get the information desired.

Social networks are not covered in the list because they are relatively new inventions. There are two states looking to make it illegal to discriminate against job applications who refuse to turn over passwords to their social media account. Maryland and Illinois have both introduced bills to do so.

Even though it may be legal for an employer to ask for passwords in order to vet the applicant, handing over those credentials is not.

Illegal

In addition to it being a violation of the terms of use for any social media web site to provide credentials to another person.

The Department of Justice regards it as a federal crime to enter a social networking site in violation of the terms of service, but during recent congressional testimony, the agency said such violations would not be prosecuted.

So while it remains a violation of the terms of the web site, and a federal crime, the Department of Justice has agreed to look the other way on employers asking for your personal passwords. This should be all I need to say about the practice.

Economic times are hard for everyone. Companies need good people and people need to put food on their table, keep a roof over their heads and support themselves and their families.

It is wrong for companies to rely on immoral and illegal means to filter out applicants. While this practice is in use for now, it leads down a dangerous road. How far is too far? How much privacy is a pay check worth?

Empty Shells

I feel like the move to google+ is like when you get tired of your broken, fucked up installation of Windows, and instead of fixing it, you’d rather burn the mother fucker to the ground and install Linux. In the end, it’s no better, just different, new, and clean.
Steve Mothershead

Reading this comment from a friend tonight not only made me laugh, but it made me think about social networks and put my thoughts I’ve had into words.

I replied,

All social networks are empty shells. They are what we make of them and who we follow to build them.

For starters, I missed the boat on Facebook. I had graduated college when Facebook launched. However, I was still working for the University so I had that all-important .edu address. So I signed up for Facebook because I’m a serial signer-upper.

I joined. I used it. I still use it… somewhat. Most of Facebook is not very interesting because just like every other social network, we, the people, are the product. The same goes for Twitter, Friendster, Myspace and Google+.

Without us, all of these places are the blank pages in a notebook. They are blank text files. We are the product being sold to advertisers. In all cases, we are not the audience, we are the product and are treated as such.

This made me think about how I interact with the three social networks I use. ((To various degrees.))

Google+

I am a member of Google+ mostly out of curiosity. I like the clean design and the lack of clutter and eye-bleeding customization options.

However, no one is really there. I follow a mix of friends, co-workers and smart people I really admire. There still isn’t much going on. Google+ just opened up to the public negating the need for an invitation starting yesterday so we’ll see if there’s a gold rush on the platform or not.

Facebook

Facebook I feel like I missed the boat on. I was there in the early days and it felt small((It was also TheFacebook.com back then.)) and I used it to keep up with friends. My brother, who was starting college as Facebook launched and was totally addicted and practically how he scheduled his life.

Facebook to me still feels like an overt way to sell ads to us and push products and sell our data to advertisers who can push more product upon us. That is also why their constant rearranging of layouts and privacy settings. Anything to make a buck and to make it more enticing for us to give them the what little information they don’t already have.

Facebook is a giant data mine. They need your data, all your data. Just now, in the last F8 Facebook revealed it wanted to “tell the story of your life.” They want all your data. They want to make money on your data. And they aren’t going to be sly or embarrassed about it.

I treat Facebook like a flea market. I follow mostly people I know in real life, ignoring some and reading others. I follow my family. I follow some brands who offer me value or because I signed up for a drawing and never bothered to delete them. ((Isn’t this every marketer’s dream?))

Day in and day out, I don’t get a lot of value out of Facebook. There’s very few links I get everyday, save for a small group of people who are only on Facebook, that are of interest to me.

Twitter

Twitter is my bread and butter. I am very careful and skeptical of who I follow. I tweak and tend to my list of people I follow almost daily. I am always looking for a better mix of people who share things most interesting to me but without a lot of noise.

I follow a couple of lists on Twitter of people I don’t want to have to see all the time but I check in with a couple of times a day just to catch up on what interesting things have been said.

I even created a DC Metro News list because while I no longer commute by subway daily, I want to keep track of those contacts for when I need them.

Twitter is where I follow the thinkers and writers I find interesting and like-minded. I follow them on Twitter because for most of them, that’s where they are outside their blogs and newspaper columns.