Some employers and colleges have found an ingenious way around Facebook's pesky privacy settings: Simply demand that applicants or students friend you, give you a tour of their account, or even divulge their usernames and passwords. MSNBC reports on a number of places instituting the troubling practices:
- At Maryland's Department of Corrections, job applicants are asked to log in to their account and allow an interviewer to watch as they click through their photos and posts. The Department of Corrections used to ask for username and password outright, but stopped after an ACLU complaint last year.
- Colleges are requiring student athletes to "friend" a coach or school official so that their Facebook posts can be monitored. If they refuse, they don't play. "Each team must identify at least one coach or administrator who is responsible for having access to and regularly monitoring the content of team members’ social networking sites and postings," reads the University of North Carolina handbook.
- Though social media monitoring seems to take place mostly with student athletes, non-athlete college applicants have reported to one lawyer that they were asked for their login information during interviews.
In Maryland's case, prison officials say they're just trying to avoid hiring guards with gang ties; of 2,689 job seekers who received a social-media review, seven were showing gang signs in their photos. But "it's not a far leap from reading people's Facebook posts to reading their email," says the lawyer. "As a society, where are we going to draw the line?" His activism has led Maryland state legislators to propose bills that would ban the practice, but he says a federal law is needed. Facebook confirms that the practice violates its Terms of Service, which does not allow password sharing.