Laws target social media privacy

— “If you go on these accounts and use information based upon a person’s age, race, religion not to hire someone or fire someone, then you’re going to open a can of worms,” said Zappia. “There’s the potential for an employer to go down that slippery slope.”

On the other hand, Zappia said there might be times when access to an individual’s personal life via his or her online presence might not be out of line.

“I’ve heard that … especially in unions for corrections officers as part of security clearance they’re asking people for their passwords,” said Zappia. “(For) secure background checks this might be the point where privacy rights end.”

So what should people do if they’re faced with a request for passwords?

“It’s a delicate situation and if it’s a person that’s comfortable with what they have in their Twitter or Facebook accounts and there’s nothing truly damaging, you can certainly hand over those passwords and have a clear conscience,” said Zappia.

But Morse pointed out sometimes Facebook friends post things on other people’s Facebook walls that might make for a tricky situation.

“Should you be denied a job because somebody posts something on your private page that wasn’t meant to be an expression of your views or how you feel about something but simply someone else’s expression they posted on your page?” said Morse. “There’s too much room for perception to become reality. … It’s really dangerous to allow that to become part of the norm.”

The National Association of Colleges and Employers, an association that represents about 8,000 college recruiting professionals, is one group to have come out on the issue. It said employers shouldn’t require or even request job candidates to provide password information to social network accounts.

“NACE’s position is that this practice violates ethical standards,” said Executive Director Marilyn Mackes. “… We advise college career services professionals to counsel their students that employers do not have a right to require them to provide their login and passwords during the employment recruiting process.”

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