In today’s internet-driven world, employers have never had more options from which to recruit new hires. Sites like Zip Recruiter, Monster.com, and Career Builder specialize in talent acquisition, serving as stand-alone classified pages of sorts. Employers also can utilize ever-present social media channels, like Facebook and LinkedIn, to find the best candidate for a position.

The California Legislature made headlines yesterday by passing legislation that prohibits employers from demanding the social media usernames or passwords of current employees and applicants.  The bill also prevents employers from requiring employees or candidates to log in to social media in the presence of the employer (i.e., the employee’s supervisor, or the interviewer, or a human resources manager – you get the point).
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Over a year ago, our colleagues at the Information Intersection blog warned that employers should think twice before using websites such as Spokeo.com, which are aggregators of personal information collected from online sources, including social media.  They warned that:

…the information available through some of these sites might be incomplete, inaccurate or dated…The reality is that most online information brokers, in their current versions, are not designed to be used for employment screening purposes.  They typically do not meet or even purport to meet the strict rules that apply to pre-employment screening databases.
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Two weeks ago, we posted on how employers viewing employees’ or job applicants’ Facebook pages could violate the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”), which prohibits employers from obtaining or using certain types of genetic information.  We didn’t know the issue of employers viewing applicants’ Facebook pages — and particularly requiring their passwords — was about to BLOW UP.

Since our post, the issue has been the subject of Congressional hearings, proposed legislation, a statement by Facebook, and lots of articles, blogs and tweets.  Many have pointed out that requiring a Facebook password (1) may be illegal, (2) is an invasion of privacy, and (3) gets employers involved in issues they usually seek to avoid.  While these points are true (and are briefly explained below), the real question is:  Does demanding a Facebook password really serve an employer’s best interests?  Put simply, is it a good idea?
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Online social media presents great rewards – and potential risks – for employers.  With more than 500 million active users on Facebook alone, there is no question that a large percentage of employees in every workforce use some form of online social networking.  Even when information on social media networks is not publicly available (such as when employees use “friends only” privacy settings in a social media network such as Facebook), employees often grant access to (“friend”) their supervisors, many of whom also use the same social media.  Likewise, there is no doubt that social media use goes on during work hours and at work – even where employers takes steps to restrict this behavior. 
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