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Thread: Is it even Legal?

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    Is it even Legal?

    Good article from the pages of American Police Beat Magazine | Law Enforcement Publication

    Written by Mark Nichols
    After countless incidents where police officers’ social media postings have reflected negatively on the agencies they work for, it’s become commonplace for employers to ask for Facebook passwords as a condition of employment. It turns out that this may be illegal.

    According to a recent article in the Fredericksburg Patch, the Spotsylvania Sheriff's Office has stopped asking officers for their passwords based on a request from two U.S. Senators for an investigation of whether it is legal to obtain access to private social network accounts as a condition of employment.
    Spotsylvania Sheriff's Office spokesman Mike Harvey provided the following statement:
    "Background investigations for law enforcement personnel have always been much more intense and thorough than most background screenings done in the private sector for potential employees; and even though the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has declared it permissible for independent background screeners to search online and social media resources for background information, the recent request by members of the United States Senate for an investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) into whether or not it is legal or Constitutional for any employer, law enforcement or otherwise, to access applicant Facebook accounts, the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office is suspending the practice of requesting applicants to allow screeners to view Facebook and other social media site indefinitely, effective immediately."
    The issue of employers asking employees for online passwords has gotten a lot of media attention recently and several articles have used the Spotsylvania Sheriff's Office as an example.
    Sheriff’s spokesman Harvey had said earlier that detectives check social networks of prospective employees to check for derogatory statements.
    In addition, the sheriff's office was asking potential employees to "friend" background investigators who would look for red flags in the content of their accounts.
    Harvey says that in the past investigators would talk with friends and neighbors to gather information on employees, but social media sites seemed to provide more information.
    Virginia State Police followed a similar practice but it’s unclear if that agency plans to suspend the social network reviews.
    Facebook released a statement recently that said employers who require prospective employees to provide access to their private accounts could face discrimination lawsuits.
    Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., requested the investigation to determine if these practices violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
    Both lawmakers are also asked the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if these practices could be used to discriminate against qualified prospective employees.
    "The Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office will reassess the use of Facebook in employee background screenings after the EEOC, DOJ and Congress have reviewed this matter," Harvey told reporters.
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    While I didn't have to give up my password, my backgrounder asked me to log in to Facebook on her computer and she browsed through it for a few minutes. Then she logged out. I had no problem with this.
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    Jks9199 is online now The Reason People Hate Cops & Causer of War
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    I think that reviewing social media today should be as basic a part of conducting a background check as knocking on a neighbor's door is. But that doesn't mean asking for passwords, or demanding that the investigator be "friended." Let's be real; if you know they'll be asking, you're going to clean house. In the most extreme case -- get a subpoena and get the data direct. Otherwise, ask them about activity and email addresses used, and work from there. Check Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. You know, INVESTIGATE. Then use some common sense; stupid kid stuff vs major red flag and investigative direction are different.
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    Jks9199 is online now The Reason People Hate Cops & Causer of War
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    Quote Originally Posted by KaiGywer View Post
    While I didn't have to give up my password, my backgrounder asked me to log in to Facebook on her computer and she browsed through it for a few minutes. Then she logged out. I had no problem with this.
    I do. It's lazy. If you anticipate it's coming, you're going to clean house. And have you inadvertently violated someone else's privacy in something visible to you that's private to others?
    121Traffic likes this.
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    Isn't that like saying "we can't hire you until we view the contents of your desk and all your personal correspondence" would have been 50 years ago? I understand that it becomes a consent search, but is it within the bounds of reason, especially from a governmental agency?
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    I have a problem with this as well. The ONLY aspect of any social media should be two fold:

    1) Am I easily or readily identifiable? (Using my real name on Facebook, for example)

    2) How does my public profile represent me or my employer?

    If I'm publicly bad-mouthing my employer or talking about sensitive material in a public forum, then action should be taken. However if I use an alias and never name my employer, it's no one's business.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jks9199 View Post
    I do. It's lazy. If you anticipate it's coming, you're going to clean house. And have you inadvertently violated someone else's privacy in something visible to you that's private to others?
    How about you give me your address and your house key and wait here while I go through your house?
    121Traffic, Jks9199, Rhino and 1 others like this.
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    Just don't ask where the sentry guns are, friend
    "My motivation is slipping, people bug me, and I'm tired of wasting my time on drivel."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jks9199 View Post
    I do. It's lazy. If you anticipate it's coming, you're going to clean house. And have you inadvertently violated someone else's privacy in something visible to you that's private to others?
    Not that it would have made a difference anyways, but I didn't anticipate it coming at that time. It was done right before my interview. But in her words I'm "boring in a good way" and she laughed. And she only looked at my wall and photos of me, did not go to my friends' pages.
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  10. #10
    Jks9199 is online now The Reason People Hate Cops & Causer of War
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    Quote Originally Posted by KaiGywer View Post
    Not that it would have made a difference anyways, but I didn't anticipate it coming at that time. It was done right before my interview. But in her words I'm "boring in a good way" and she laughed. And she only looked at my wall and photos of me, did not go to my friends' pages.
    But do your friends have pictures visible to you and other friends that aren't generally public?

    Especially for younger applicants (early 20s), today, I would say some investigation of their use of social media should be standard. Ask for email accounts, ask for user names, and about their use of social media, and investigate. Rhino's criteria are good starting points, but I would look for evidence of questionable character, just like you do when you review school records or ask the neighbors about them.
    Voting against incumbents until we get a Congress that does its job.

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    All opinions expressed are my own and are not official statements of my employer.

  11. #11
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    What if you don't have an account to show? Today not a problem, fast forward. At the point 95% have some form of social media account will failure to have one be taken as deception? What if you have one, but don't use it? Boring is good today, but will that come look sanitized? When you see someone driving exactly the speed limit do you think "what an exceptionally perfect motorist" or "what are they so worried about"? Is HR going to review all these questions while keeping up with the changes in policies in the ever expanding social media landscape? Nah.

    Honestly I'm thinking about it as a more general trend than sensitive jobs with thorough background checks (as I recall that Montana story early in this trend where the city wanted access for summer lifeguard positions). Not a fan of the concept on various grounds.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Odd View Post
    What if you don't have an account to show? Today not a problem, fast forward. At the point 95% have some form of social media account will failure to have one be taken as deception? What if you have one, but don't use it? Boring is good today, but will that come look sanitized? When you see someone driving exactly the speed limit do you think "what an exceptionally perfect motorist" or "what are they so worried about"? Is HR going to review all these questions while keeping up with the changes in policies in the ever expanding social media landscape? Nah.

    Honestly I'm thinking about it as a more general trend than sensitive jobs with thorough background checks (as I recall that Montana story early in this trend where the city wanted access for summer lifeguard positions). Not a fan of the concept on various grounds.
    I had to convince my BI pretty well that I didn't (and don't) have a Facebook page, or twitter, or anything like that. He really didn't believe me at first. But ultimately when I got it across to him that I really didn't have one, they didn't count it against me or accuse me of lying or anything.
    Odd likes this.
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    Given this climate, my suggestion would be to delete it - and tell them you deleted it.

    "Sir, I deleted my Facebook account because it causes so many people trouble getting hired."

    You can always open a new one, they're free.
    I'm your huckleberry...

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    The kids have been doing a variation of deleting prior to hiring for a few years. When you delete your Facebook account it doesn't go away - and you can reopen it, intact, up to two weeks later. Need more time? Delete again to get another two weeks. This way they can keep all their bong pictures, but just hide them away when applying to colleges, for scholarships and jobs.

 

 

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