Colleges, Employers Demand Access to Applicants' Facebook Accounts

Some argue the practice is unconsistutional

By Tierney McAfee
|  Tuesday, Mar 6, 2012  |  Updated 9:26 AM CDT
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Colleges, Employers Demand Access to Applicants' Facebook Accounts

Washington, D.C. lawyer Bradley Shear says schools and employers are violating the First Amendment by demanding access to private social media content.

Facebook's privacy settings might not be so private after all.

Some employers and colleges are demanding full access to the Facebook and Twitter accounts of job applicants and student athletes, MSNBC's Bob Sullivan reported on The Red Tape Chronicles blog. 

The Maryland Department of Corrections has been asking applicants during interviews to log into their accounts and show their wall posts, friends, photos and other items behind Facebook's privacy wall.

The department used to ask applicants to give their user name and password, but the practice was halted after a complaint from the ACLU last year. Still, most job seekers succumb to the new voluntary Facebook review in hopes of nabbing the job, according Maryland ACLU legislative director Melissa Coretz Goemann.

College athletes are also increasingly required to “friend” a coach or compliance officer, granting them access to their private posts — and this practice isn’t voluntary, MSNBC reported. Schools are also buying software packages from social media monitoring companies to take a peek into the private lives of student athletes.

Washington, D.C. lawyer Bradley Shear and other critics say schools and employers have no such right, and are violating the First Amendment by demanding access to private social media content.

Maryland state legislators have proposed two separate bills banning social media access by schools and potential employers. Illinois is considering similar legislation to ban access demands and Shear told MSNBC there should be a federal law too.

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