Privacy issues in the workplace

Job and internship searches are stressful enough. It can be overwhelming and difficult to figure out where to begin searching and what to say in cover letters without sounding like a broken record. But once those parts go smoothly and a company offers someone an interview for the position, more can go wrong than just not knowing how to answer all the questions asked.

With the rapid increase of social media, many young people have been warned about posting inappropriate photos or updates that could prevent them from getting jobs. It is almost guaranteed that potential employers will do Internet searches on applicants now, and that is perfectly understandable.

However, some employers go even further. According to a USA Today article, some will ask for interviewees’ usernames and passwords in order to really see what they post online. Last week, Oregon joined 11 other states in banning this practice, and this Editorial Board believes that this is something to be considered in every state.

Asking for a username and password is acceptable because if someone allows the public to view inappropriate posts, that is his or her own fault. Privacy settings are available for a reason, and people should learn to employ them in order to protect themselves for more reasons than just this scenario. If an employer discovers a questionable photo, it is fair game for the company to consider this when making a decision. Doing a background check through means such as an Internet search is also fair, and it can be comparable to a drug test. Companies in today’s world have the capability of checking out potential employees’ lives on a much more personal level than ever before, but there is a need to monitor this.

The USA Today article addressed that states began considering the request of login information an invasion of privacy back in 2012, when six states passed legislation banning the practice. More joined this crowd in 2013, and in 2014, many people are hoping this comes to an end.

One of the main arguments surrounding the issue of requesting such personal information is the threat of invading the privacy of third parties, such as the person’s friends. They did not agree to have this sort of background check, and even if said friends had strong privacy settings for strangers, most people have it programmed so their friends can view more automatically.

It is also essential to keep in mind the main purposes of using these social media sites, both for the individual at hand and for the employer. Many people use social media to promote their own work, whatever field it may be in, and if that is important for employers to see, perhaps professional social media accounts are the answer. These accounts could be viewed by anyone and would be kept appropriate because of their lack of privacy. This way, companies could make sure they are being promoted in a positive way by their employees and there would not be a lack of privacy.

Even if this is not the answer for some, it should definitely be considered as a possibility. This Editorial Board understands that employers just want to hire the best possible people for the company, but privacy is more of a priority, especially for those students searching for jobs and internships as second semester rolls into the picture. While Illinois is one of the states to have banned such practices, students looking into living and working somewhere else should learn those states’ restrictions.

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