Stop asking for Facebook passwords: Ontario privacy czar

Asking candidates, employees for passwords ‘fundamentally wrong’
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 05/04/2012

Memo to employers: Stop asking for Facebook passwords.

That’s the advice from Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner. She launched a paper on May 3, titled Reference Check: Is Your Boss Watching?

“Passwords are meant to be kept private, and I want to be clear that the practice of employers requesting personal passwords from their current or potential future staff is fundamentally wrong,” said Cavoukian. “Canada’s human rights and privacy laws provide strong protections for job applicants when it comes to improper practices, such as employers requesting personal passwords. However, everyone using social media must remain vigilant when it comes to guarding their own personal information.”

The paper offers examples of improper practices by employers, provides context and offers practical tips to protect privacy.

“It is absolutely crucial to remember that anything you post online may stay there forever, in one form or another, so think carefully before you post,” said Cavoukian.

She pointed out that 86 per cent of Canadian Internet users have a Facebook profile, and says people should post information “with their eyes wide open, and considering the potential risks to their employment — current and future.”

Mark Ellis, of Baker & McKenzie, said employers should respect the legal boundaries regarding investigation of any applicant.

“While an employer’s review of outward-facing social media pages is proper and valuable due diligence, probing beyond the password-protected wall constitutes unwarranted invasion of privacy,” said Ellis.

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