Would you give a potential employer your Facebook password?



Robert Collins worked for the Maryland Department of Corrections (MDOC). Robert Collins needed to be recertified after taking a leave of absence. And now Robert Collins — with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland — is suing the MDOC. Why?

As part of the department's background check procedures, all new applicants and those seeking recertification are required to turn over usernames and passwords for social media accounts. This, predictably, has set off alarms with privacy advocates who view this as a gross violation of an individual's rights. Note, this is not reading an applicants public Twitter feed; this is digging through personal correspondance and rummaging through posts made not just by the applicant, but by his or her friends and family.

Here's what Collins had to say:

"I understood the investigator to be saying that I had no choice but to hand over my Facebook login and password if I wanted to continue my employment with the Division of Corrections. We live in a time when national security is the highest priority, but it must be delicately balanced with personal privacy. My fellow officers and I should not have to allow the government to view our personal Facebook posts and those of our friends, just to keep our jobs."

The MDOC hasn't responded to Collins' and the ACLU's letter, nor has the agency made any public statement.

After Katrina, I was looking for an apartment in another city where the rental agency told me they needed to see my last five tax returns. I thought that was outrageous (and told 'em to go whistle), but Internet passwords? What's next? Your Gmail password? Your banking account password?

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