Facebook has released a statement today in reaction to what the social networking site says is a “distressing increase in reports of employers or others seeking to gain inappropriate access to people’s Facebook profiles or private information.”
Surprisingly, a substantial number of U.S employers and universities have started requesting that Facebook give them access to job seeker profiles or students applying to universities.
Facebook is not taking the requests lightly. The company believes that employers have no rights in asking for another person's password and in doing so is a clear violation of Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. The site is putting its foot down and warning that it may take legal action against those requesting private information.
Facebook asserts that this violates the expectation of user security and warns that those contacting the site for such information may be exposing themselves to "unanticipated legal liability."
It is quite astonishing that companies and universities would want access to such personal information. Such requests pose the same type of privacy threat as asking for a person's email account password, which is highly inappropriate.
Erin Egan, Facebook chief privacy officer on policy, says Facebook will take action to protect the privacy and security of its users.
"Facebook takes your privacy seriously," said Egan in a statement. "We'll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges."
Employers requesting passwords from Facebook or job seekers themselves should be wary because it opens up themselves up to a lot of potential problems.
"We don't think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don't think it's right the thing to do," said Egan. "But it also may cause problems for the employers that they are not anticipating. For example, if an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don't hire that person. "
Facebook has been under a lot of scrutiny for its privacy practices and use of data. The company, however, is fighting to protect the privacy and data of the users. The company tells users to do the same saying that if you're a Facebook user that you "should never have to share your password, let anyone access your account, or do anything that might jeopardize the security of your account or violate the privacy of your friends."
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