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State agencies, colleges now demanding applicants' Facebook passwords

Friday, March 09, 2012 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: Facebook, passwords, colleges

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(NaturalNews) If you are a student athlete attending the University of North Carolina (UNC) or an employee at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (MDPS), you may have already experienced a privacy invasion into your social networking life. According to a recent msnbc.com report, employers and educational institutions are increasingly demanding that employees, potential employees, and students surrender their login and password information for sites like Facebook and Twitter to authorities, a practice that many civil rights experts are decrying as unconstitutional.

Scandals like the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) investigation into UNC defensive lineman Marvin Austin's Facebook posts about his expensive purchases, or the recent arrest of an Oregon nursing assistant who posted graphic photos of patients on her Facebook account, are just a few of the excuse cases being used by schools, state agencies, hospitals, and other employers and institutions to demand access to private social networking information. But coercing individuals to forfeit their privacy in order to keep their jobs, or to get one, is a heinous violation of privacy.

At MDPS, for instance, employees and job applicants are reportedly asked to log in to Facebook and scroll through posts and pictures in the presence of a superior. And at UNC, student athletes are required to "friend" a coach or other so-called "compliance officer" who will actively monitor their accounts. In some cases, employers and educational institutions are hiring social media monitoring companies like UDiligence and Varsity Monitor to install automated monitoring software that continuously tracks individuals' online activity and looks for "threat level" information that might be of concern.

Last fall, an image of a job application for a clerical position at a North Carolina police department began circulating the internet, in which one of the questions asked, "Do you have any web page accounts such as Facebook, Myspace, etc...? If so, list your username and password" (http://news.yahoo.com).

"I can't believe some people think it's OK to do this," said attorney Bradley Shear to msnbc.com's Bob Sullivan in a recent statement. "Maybe it's OK if you live in a totalitarian regime, but we still have a Constitution to protect us. It's not a far leap from reading people's Facebook posts to reading their email. As a society, where are we going to draw the line?"

Not only does demanding private social media access appear to be unconstitutional, but it also violates many of the sites' terms of service (TOS). Facebook's TOS, for instance, explain that users are prohibited from sharing their passwords or letting others access their accounts.

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