Employers ask for Facebook passwords

Interviewees checked on Facebook

Following reports that companies have requested Facebook passwords from prospective employees, two US senators have requested a federal law investigation - and there is concern that the trend is also growing in the UK.

Numerous interviewees in the US have said that they have been asked to hand over their login details for social media accounts during the recruitment process, so that bosses could find out more about them without the constraints of privacy settings.

Democratic senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut have asked the American Department Of Justice and the US Equal Opportunity Commission to investigate, led by Attorney General Eric Holder, as they are concerned that the requests have violated federal laws.

Existing staff also affected

The issue first came to light in the US, but similar examples have also arisen in the UK. An e-commerce worker told national newspaper the Daily Telegraph that his existing employer had tried to discover his profile on Facebook, but had failed due to his high privacy settings. Assuming the worker was hiding something, the employer asked for his Facebook login details.

The TUC's head of equality and employment rights, Sarah Veale, told the newspaper: "It's very dangerous and unnecessary to start asking people for access into their personal lives. Once you start asking people to reveal everything about themselves, which is irrelevant to their ability to be able to do a job, you are getting into a tricky area. It's the equivalent of getting people to spy on prospective staff down at the pub before hiring them."

Facebook has also condemned the action, saying that it is an invasion of privacy and exposes employers to legal liability.

Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword, said: "It is essential that employers devise and implement social media policies that respect the rights of both the company and of staff. Employees and prospective employees alike should always have the right to keep their personal lives personal, especially if there is no relevance to their work."