Aaron R. Davis
This isn’t the first time there have been rumblings, but it hit the news several times last week that potential employers are now asking for your Facebook username and password.
The depth to which this makes me sick can actually be measured with a bathometer.
Get it through your heads, employers of America: you don’t actually own the people who work for you. You don’t get to name them, you don’t get to dictate their behavior when they’re not on company time and you don’t get unfettered access to their thoughts. Shame on you for bullying and terrorizing potential hires in an economic recession when jobs are scarce; for throwing your weight around to scare people who need jobs into just giving up their privacy so that job interviewers can check on them.
What the hell is even the purpose of this violation? To see if someone who might want to be hired to work at Target has hit the “like” button for Walmart? What is so potentially embarrassing to an entire corporation that what someone has on their Facebook page could bring them down if someone is hired? I promise you, no amount of bikini pictures or drunken rants about Taco Bell could embarrass a company any more than the behavior of most CEOs. Is it a simple matter of politics? Sorry, but unless someone is using their time at work to try and electioneer people into voting for a candidate, then logging in to Facebook and joining a group stumping for one political position or another is not something that they can be fired for. It’s actually not an employer’s business. So what is the freaking point?
I ask that question especially in regard to people who have their Facebook pages set to private; i.e. people who only share their walls with people they have invited as Facebook friends. If it can’t be seen publicly, then why does a potential employer actually need to go in and check on this person? What’s the concern there? No one’s just going to idly surf by one day and see that this person likes Cheetos and vow never to patronize the company that employs him, or whatever the hell this is all about.
Are you afraid we’re complaining about how much we hate our shitty jobs? Well, let me clear this up now: we are. Get fucking over it. Everyone is. Yes, there are times when this can go too far, but if someone wants to let off some steam about how much they despise working at Blockbuster Video on their private Facebook page, that’s not actually any of Blockbuster’s business. And trust me, you want those people blowing off steam in private and not coming in to work and taking it out on the customers or their fellow employees. You can’t ask any more of these people than that they do their jobs and make customer service top priority; you can’t force them to love minimum wage and praise their employers to any and all. Given the hostility with which they now want to probe your Facebook without the courtesy of even putting on a glove first, it must just kill these people that they can’t somehow control your emotions and your moral behavior.
We’re not indentured servants. You don’t own us until the day you fire us for not letting us look at our Facebook messages.
What’s next? Demanding we hand over our bank account information so you can log in and make sure that we don’t ever buy Pepsi when we’re applying for a job at Coca-Cola?
Oh, and when it comes to kids: leave them the fuck alone. I cannot stress that enough. When your child comes home from school and — as a 12 year-old girl did in Minnesota a couple of weeks ago — tells you that she was forced by school officials to give up her username and password so that they could go into her Facebook account because something offended them, you get a lawsuit ready. I could write an entirely separate column about the way American schools go too far in their insane and frankly perverted attempts to control every aspect of your child’s life — remember the girl who was strip-searched by her principal because she had extra strength pain reliever in her purse? — but for now, just, Christ, schools, remember that you don’t actually own these kids and once they set foot out the door of your state-mandated daily prison you don’t get to control their behavior. Don’t be so fucking interested in their personal lives. And, I cannot stress this enough, don’t ever make them get naked in your office, no matter what your flimsy pretext is.
Now, back to employers.
There’s actually legislation in place to stop this shit; to outlaw it and make this practice prosecutable. For now, you can refuse it, even though refusing it just makes you look like you have something to hide and you probably won’t get the job they’re dangling in front of you.
But more importantly, it’s against Facebook’s terms of service, and Facebook has actually noticed. And they’re talking about lawsuits against companies who do this, too. And if there’s anyone who knows about Orwellian information-harvesting, it’s Facebook. It seems more to me like Facebook is just protecting its bottom line — “Hey, if anyone’s going to look at that monetizable personal information, it’s us!” — but I’m interested to see what the actual penalties for something like that might be? Kicking your company off of Facebook? That would be hilarious if I ever believed for a second that a social network would shut the door to even 30 cents in potential ad revenue.
For now, here’s my advice: sue. Didn’t get the job? Claim it’s because the corporate bully conducting your job interview logged into your Facebook, saw what segments of society you were affiliated with and then didn’t hire you because of your age/religion/politics/sexual orientation. They want to assault your privacy and then not even give you a job? Make them pay for the privilege.
Then we’ll see how fast this shit stops.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at email@example.com