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Peeking Behind the Privacy Curtain

Posted on: April 18th, 2012 by Larry

How many times have we heard, “be careful what you put on the internet?”

That warning is understandable when something is out there for anyone to see. But what if the internet information is protected with an ID and password?

Lately, jobseekers have been put on the spot by potential employers asking for their Facebook ID and password. The employer understandably wants to get all the information it can on the applicant. But is it legal to ask?

Privacy activists feel the answer is apparent. It would be an invasion of privacy, and the mere act of asking is an abuse of power. One argument is that a social media account is no different than a letter you’d receive in the mail. It’s private. But, while federal law prohibits snooping on someone’s mail, there is no such law specifically for the internet. And until there is, the issue is fuzzy.

Clearly, an answer will have to come from the courts, Congress or some state legislatures.

  • If a potential employer asked for your Facebook password, would you give it up?
  • School administrators have a right to check a student’s locker. Does that right extend to the internet?
  • With the advent of the internet and surveillance cameras everywhere, has the definition of privacy changed?
  • Are there some types of jobs where employers are clearly justified in demanding someone’s Facebook information?  For example, law enforcement or a government position?