Potential employers want access to your Facebook

So, you are desperately in need of gainful employment and you are in the middle of a job interview when you are asked to hand over your Facebook login and password. What do you do?

That's the dilemma many job applicants are now being faced with as companies and government agencies dig deep in order to find out more and more about candidates looking to join their organizations.

In their effort to vet applicants, human resource managers are looking to social networking profiles to gauge whether interested candidates are hire-worthy. Not a novel approach as hiring managers have for years done due diligence by Googling and Facebooking applicants. However, now, the way some are going about it is raising many legal and ethical questions.

Companies, as some government agencies have been doing for some time, are asking applicants to provide their Facebook login and password during the screening process. The candidate can say no, of course, but in many cases that immediately disqualifies them from the candidate pool. Some employers as that candidates and personnel accept a Facebook "friend request" from the company's Human Resources Manager to allow access to information that may normally be hidden to the online community. Interviewers have also asked interviewees to log in to their Facebook profile during interviews.

Many Facebook users manager their profiles with a variety of privacy settings, making them available to only selected people in their networks. It is not uncommon for hiring managers to review portions of Facebook profiles that are publicly available.

Now, questions are being raised about the legality of invasive hiring practices. Legislation is being proposed in Illinois and Maryland to deny public agencies authority to ask for access to social networks.

Some companies do employ third-party applications that dig deep into social networking sites like Facebook in order to access profiles of potential hires. An app called BeKnown does just that and is in use by hiring managers at Sears Holdings, Inc. In a statement to the Associated Press, a Sears spokesperon said, "...people their social profiles updated to the minute, which allows us to consider them for other jobs in the future or for ones that they may not realize are available currently."

Giving out Facebook login information violates the social network's terms of service. But those terms have no real legal weight, and experts say the legality of asking for such information is unclear.

The Department of Justice regards it as a federal crime to enter a social networking site in violation of the terms of service, but during recent congressional testimony, the agency said such violations would not be prosecuted.

(The Associated Press contributed to this article.)

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