March 26th, 2012
The latest social media kerfuffle is over news that some employers are requiring job candidates to disclose their social networking log-in credentials. (Shel Israel does an excellent analysis and summary of the fine points of this story, so I won’t do that here).
Foregoing a discussion about why employers would need this information, this is the kind of silly, panic-inducing story journalists (online and offline) are in love with. It’s the latest in a string of opportunities to cry out with indignation, “Look what they’re doing to us now!” and to then step forward and announce “They’ve gone too far!” (Remember how foursquare was going to help burglars know when you’re gone?)
I’m a huge advocate for privacy. I’ve written and spoken about it often. And while this particular story is not worth getting one’s knickers in a knot over, the pure-anti-social-networking luddites are ignoring our time-honored tradition of surrendering privacy. To quote my friend Scott McNealy, former Sun Microsystems CEO, “You have no privacy. Get over it.” In other words, we gave away certain rights to privacy a long time ago.
We already give employers our social security number, our driver’s license or passport number, our address, and phone number. We agree to a credit check. If we sign up for direct deposit or arrange a wire transfer, we give out our checking account number and ABA routing number. Companies are tracking every keystroke you make and every IP address you visit while at work. Some jobs require employees to submit bodily fluids for drug testing.
If you want to work in aerospace, the intelligence community, or the U.S. Treasury, you can bet they’ll know everything about you from the name of your third-grade teacher to the average number of squares of toilet paper you use each time.
We trade in information. That’s not new and it’s not a function of social media. The great Facebook password disclosure debacle is a straw man enabling the time honored Luddite tradition of crying out, “Watch out for that social media!”
And if a company wants to know about me through what I post on Facebook, I have a solution I could certainly live with. Recruiters could have authenticated company-sponsored Facebook accounts and candidates could be asked to accept friend requests from these recruiters.