Are employers going too far with their requests for personal information?
This morning, I read a post regarding an employer who was requesting Facebook names and password information as a hiring requirement. In all fairness, this employer was a law enforcement agency and they felt that they had the right to know, EXACTLY, who they were hiring but that notwithstanding, is this appropriate, is it ethical, to request this type of very personal information. Do we, as employees, have a certain expectation of privacy, whether or not we are on the internet?
Companies certainly expect their employees to respect online privacy; most companies have footnotes embedded in company e-mails forbidding the transmission of the e-mail by unauthorized personnel, etc. etc. Yet, by the same token, they want access to employees private, non-company or non-employer related online presence?
Example – a few incidents that really ticked me off. I found out that certain higher level management types were snooping in my blogs. I was never a privacy nut and I always enjoyed feedback from readers of my materials, until I found out about my employers’ spying and that’s what it is…spying on my personal life, my OWN unpaid time. The company crossed a very straight line. My job takes up 8 hours of my day, during that time; I acknowledge that I am company property. I am bought and paid for BUT when I leave that building, when I clock out? That’s it. All bets are off and I am no longer property but an individual with the rights and freedoms afforded to me by the Canadian Charter of Rights. That includes an expectation of privacy. I felt compelled to change my privacy settings to “Friends Only” because I felt…muzzled? Or unable to express my opinions in case it managed to get me into some kind of problem at work. So I locked ‘er down.
The second incident is even more bizarre because my internet presence was being question by my husband’s company! Yup. I kid you not. Apparently, someone, obviously an employee, was not happy with the company and created some sort of web site. I don’t know what was on it because, frankly, I didn’t give a rat’s ass but my husband was called in and asked if it was his. Now, my husband can surf the net and in a pinch, he can download e-mail for me but that’s about the extent of it. He explained his lack of computer technical knowledge to this management person who in turn, asked if it was me because I ran several web sites, NONE of which had anything to do with employers or business of any sort; one was a Pagan related site that I had running for 12 years, one site was dedicated to Aleister Crowley, as he is a cornerstone of my belief system, the third site was dedicated to allergies and research into the immune system problem.
Now, even it was me? What, exactly, would the point be? People are free to express their opinions as long as they aren’t untruthful. I tried, in all honesty, to find this mystery web site and I found nothing. Although I did tool with the idea of creating a parody one, just to piss ’em off but what would be the point? That’s sinking to their level and I would really rather not.
Another incident also involved my husband’s employer – managers/management wannabes were requesting “friend” status on Facebook – coincidentally, after rumours that the employees were looking to unionize. Before I learned of the rumours, I actually friended a couple of them – found out about the rumours, realized why they wanted to be “friended” and promptly removed them.
Not only that, I closed down that account and re-opened another one, with another of my names.
The law simply has to catch up with technology; it is so, woefully, inadequate to deal with these types of violation of the rights of the individual. On the other hand, we – as individuals – must be responsible for our own privacy as well. We should all know, by now, that employers snoop into the private business of their employees. They try to justify it but it doesn’t matter what spin doctoring is applied, it is a gross invasion of privacy. So? As employees, as users of the internet, social networking sites, personal web sites and blogs, we need to protect our own privacy until such time (and it is a long, long – if ever – way away) the various legislative and judicial levels of government get off their duffs and create a protection against such violations.
Government was right on the starting line when the gun for music/media piracy went off but not so much for you and I. The peons. The great unwashed.
Set strict privacy for your Facebook as this is usually the most personal for a lot of people. Set privacy limits for your blogs, especially if you post personal information. Yes, it is definitely your right to do so and companies/employers have no justifiable reason to invade your space but they do. Read the blog below for more information regarding employers and internet privacy issues.