It is rare for an employer to ask for your facebook or social media account passwords, but it has been known to happen. So is it reasonable for them to ask? And what are your rights as a prospective employee?
There aren't many legitimate reasons for a business to request this sort of personal information, but some justify the request as appropriate background information in order to avoid any suggestion of racism or socially inappropriate behaviour in the future.
So should you give employers this unrestricted access to your personal social media accounts? Although these days many employees are advised not to act foolishly on their personal social media accounts to avoid it affecting their current or future employment, it doesn't mean that employers have the right to search personal messages. It could also be negative for the employers themselves since they are at risk of prospective employees claiming they were unfairly discriminated against. Employers are specifically at risk if they:
- ask some, but not all candidates for certain personal information (including Facebook or social media account passwords);
- the employer has access to personal information which could be discriminated against (e.g. sexual orientation, medical conditions, race, religion, political views) which are usually only exposed in personal conversations or in protected profiles.
In the UK, the Computer Misuse Act 1990 offers some protection to employees, but there is no specific law prohibiting employers from requesting access to private social media accounts. Since many individuals are desparate for work, they may be pressured to offer such information.