By: Shannon Townsend
What is the point of a password if I have to give it away?
In light of the current economic crisis, both getting and keeping a job are much harder than ever. It’s disheartening to hear that many college students like myself sometimes end up struggling for years after graduation to find a job in their field. But even though some of us are willing to put up with quite a bit to get and stay hired, is it really worth our privacy?
Within the past decade use of social networking sites like Facebook has skyrocketed. Using these sites has also gotten a lot of people in trouble due to what they post. It’s no surprise that making compromising images and statements visible to everyone can come back to bite you during an interview or if your employers catch wind of it. But when it comes to scouring personal photo albums and information you choose to make private, that’s where the line should be drawn.
There are various accounts of people getting fired over Facebook and Twitter since they became popular, but the blatant invasion of privacy levied by the Department of Corrections in Maryland has drawn media attention in the past couple of months. Applicants to the agency have reported being asked to log into their Facebook account during interviews, then instructed to flip through their status updates, wall posts and photo albums while the interviewer observes. This is a voluntary procedure, but most applicants agree to the search in order to have a better chance of getting hired. The Department of Corrections has defended their actions by stating that they perform the searches to make sure none of the prison guards they’re hiring have gang ties; when seeking such a delicate position I think applicants should be prepared for a more invasive background check than normal, but it’s definitely not necessary for jobs of a less sensitive nature.
Nursing student Lola Akinshilo says that she would grant access to her Facebook as she “has nothing to hide”, but she does agree that requiring such information is a breach of privacy. “I feel like that’s information that’s separate from the workplace.” I’m more than inclined to agree. As working adults we have the right to have aspects of our lives that should be allowed to remain separate from the roles we serve in a professional environment. This is no different from a potential employer asking to flip through an applicant’s personal email account. How I interact with my friends and my hobbies I engage in outside the office aren’t going to dictate how I conduct myself while at work. That’s why I choose to make my Facebook account private; not because I have something to hide, but because my photos, conversations, and status updates are all representative of my personal life, and I wouldn’t want such things to be taken entirely out of context by someone who doesn’t know me.
I personally would not hand over my private information. A line has to be drawn somewhere in what we’ll accept, and if such a thing becomes common practice then what’s stopping online background checks from becoming even more invasive?