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Facebook forbids employers from asking job seekers for passwords

Facebook Privacy

A Facebook user edits privacy settings.AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick

Some companies and government agencies aren't just glancing at a job applicant's social networking profiles -- they're asking to log in as the user to have a look around. And Facebook wants an end to it.

The social-networking giant weighed in on the controversy Friday morning, reasserting a point in its privacy regulations intended to prevent such requests that makes it a violation of Facebook’s policy to request your log in.

“We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think it’s right the thing to do,” wrote Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer, in a blog post Friday morning.

“As a user, you shouldn’t be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job … that’s why we’ve made it a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password.”

If you violate those regulations, the social network reserves the right to drop you and even delete your account.

In recent weeks experts have called such requests overly intrusive and various states have introduced legislation aimed at banning access by potential employers.

"It's akin to requiring someone's house keys," said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor who calls it "an egregious privacy violation."

The legality of the practice is the focus of proposed legislation in Illinois and Maryland as well, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Since the rise of social networking, it has become common for managers to review public Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts and other sites to learn more about job candidates. But many users, especially on Facebook, have their profiles set to private, making them available only to selected people or certain networks.

Companies that don't ask for passwords have taken other steps -- such as asking applicants to friend human resource managers or to log in to a company computer during an interview. Once employed, some workers have been required to sign nondisparagement agreements that ban them from talking negatively about an employer on social media.

Asking for a candidate's password is more prevalent among public agencies, especially those seeking to fill law enforcement positions such as police officers or 911 dispatchers.

Facebook has taken heat in recent days over proposed changes to its terms of service, which the company publicly unveiled and requested comments on last week.

Facebook stopped allowing comments Thursday and is reviewing user feedback, ZDNet reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.