Social Media has become an integral part of our lives, personally and professionally. Back in 2012 stories started to spring up about companies, schools and even government offices requiring individuals to hand over the passwords for their personal Social Media accounts. Those stories have resurfaced recently and the public outcry is natural with many people posting their outrage at the practice and a few that have said, “Hey just hand them over. What have you got to hide?”
The legal debate is heated and I don’t think the issue will truly be resolved until it has worked its way through the Court System or Legislator. There are valid privacy concerns with this issue. On the flip-side, there are valid legal concerns for the company/organization/institution requesting the information. But those legal concerns do not outweigh the privacy concerns.
As this issue points out; companies, schools, and even governments are making Social Media a part of their process. That’s right kiddies, the “man” is taking over your territory in a big way. They are looking you up to see if you’re naughty or nice. That I don’t have a problem with; you want to see my hairy, pasty white butt in a thong? Knock your socks off buddy! What I do take issue with is telling me that in order to hire me I have to turn over my personal passwords; to quote Charlton Heston, “from my cold, dead hands!” That’s when you can have my passwords.
There is literally no justification for requiring a person’s personal passwords. Schools claim that it helps prevent a student from posting something embarrassing to them, the school or from preventing it from “tarnishing” the school. Businesses are taking essentially the same stance; to monitor something that may potentially tarnish the person or company. Sorry…I’m not buying any of it. If the company, school, etc. can’t find that embarrassing photo or offensive post through standard searches, it’s not necessarily public and won’t jeopardize the person or organization. It’s that simple. But that isn’t stopping them from demanding the passwords. As one commenter posted, “It’s like a company demanding the keys to your house so they can rummage around whenever they feel like it.”
What hasn’t been made clear so far is; who gets to say what is or is not embarrassing, offensive, or damaging? Everyone has different views on those. If I were to post (Yes I’m going to do it so cover your eyes).
Some will find it offensive, some will find it funny. Is it crass? Yes. Is it embarrassing? Some may be embarrassed by it. The truth is humor is in the eye of the beholder. Then we come to the issue of posting something derogatory. Will that tarnish a reputation? Perhaps, but most likely it will effect the person who posted it. Or how about cut into a Profit Margin? Are you serious?! Do you honestly believe that that one post will cut in to your profit margin? Warning! Warning! Will Robinson! There had to have been a great deal more there to effect your bottom line you’re not admitting to.
There is one very, very important factor that I have yet to see mentioned in all this. If I hand over my passwords; what’s to stop them from getting into the wrong hands? Furthermore, what’s to stop someone from posting something offensive on my account and claiming it was me? If someone is pissed at me for some reason or wants to “play a joke” and gets access to that information; what’s to stop them from doing something like that? “OH NO! That would never happen!” The supporters of this practice will say. Riiiiight and the government would NEVER monitor our emails and phone calls. The fact is that the general public doesn’t have a great deal of confidence in the competency of our Elected Officials, Civil Servants, or Corporate America with good reason; just look at their track record. No matter how you try to “spin” it, it is an unwarranted intrusion.
So what can we do to help protect not only our privacy but our Free Speech? Sorry for bringing up the F.S. phrase but it really is a part of all this. Some State Legislators are responding. But the practice is still being done. Currently there are at least nine (9) states that have passed laws preventing this practice and more can and should be done:
- Write your State Legislator and make sure there is something that will protect you already in place or in the process of being made law.
- Use some common sense – If you’ve read some of my previous posts, I can’t stress that enough. My ex was a retail manager looking to hire some part time employees. Two people stood out, and not in a good way. They listed their Social Media pages as another method of contact. One was titled “My Big T#ts,” the other “F*#k You.” Would you give either one serious consideration even for a part time job? Not likely. I still ask myself, “what were they thinking?” If you post it on the Internet folks…IT’S OUT THERE. No matter what your settings are. There is always that potential.
We have to realize that when we put something on the Internet, there is no guarantee it will only be visible to us or our circle of friends. However, this practice is an intrusion. It is a violation. If companies, schools, etc. can’t find something offensive, embarrassing etc. through standard means. They don’t have any justification for this practice.
No matter the outcome in this issue, we need to use common sense when posting our lives on the Internet; not just professionally but also personally.
*My Attorney has advised me to neither confirm nor deny what may or may not have happened when I was younger.