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We’ve come to expect the intimate inspection of our social media profiles by recruiters and hiring managers, but some  are now asking applicants for their Facebook login information during interviews.

A fascinating story from the Associated Press reveals that some HR pros are either asking applicants to hand over Facebook login credentials (including user names, passwords, security questions, etc.) or asking applicants to log into their Facebook accounts on a company computer. Other recruiters might ask an applicant to add them as a friend on the social network.

“To me, that’s still invasive,” said Robert Collins, a corrections officer, in the AP report. “I can appreciate the desire to learn more about the applicant, but it’s still a violation of people’s personal privacy.”

Not only is the password-requesting practice egregious to job applicants; it’s also in violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service, which states: “You will not share your password… let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.”

While it does violating the website’s terms of service, the practice of asking for website login credentials doesn’t technically violate the law. Employers generally can’t ask applicants questions about certain protected statuses, such as race, gender, age, religion, sexual preference, marital status, or pregnancy; but just about anything else is fair game. However, gaining access to a Facebook profile would mean applicants were passively handing this data over to employers without interviewers even having to directly ask.

Unfortunately, the invasion of privacy isn’t limited to Facebook. Some companies are asking to access other social networks, and even applicants’ email accounts.

All of this is designed to let HR folks see into the more private aspects of potential employees’ lives — you know, the kind of thing you might purposefully hide from such prying, professional eyes. While most of us with career aspirations have cleaned up our profiles across a variety of websites (specifically to appeal to our professional colleagues), some of these employers seem to think that digging below that veneer is equivalent to making reference calls or conducting a background check.

The AP said these types of requests are more common among security and law enforcement professions, but many companies use third-party apps to scrape applicants’ social data from the site. Sears even has a custom-built application that uses Facebook to let applicants log into Sears’ own jobs site.

While any applicant has the right to refuse these requests, most choose not to because they don’t want to risk losing the job opportunity — making it even more difficult for normal users to distinguish between public/private and personal/professional online identities.

Hat tip to VentureBeat reader and Apple product manager James, who pointed out Facebook’s password-related TOS note.

Image courtesy of Kristian Peetz, Shutterstock

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