Imagine this for a second: You walk into your next job interview, sit down and the employer asks you for all your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and Tumblr passwords. This is a requirement for the job, the interviewer says.

What would you do?

The Seattle Times today wrote about Washington Senate Bill 5211 that would prohibit employers from requesting social media passwords as a condition of employment or continued employment.

The bill defines a social networking site as “an internet-based service that allows individuals to construct a public or semipublic profile within a system created by the service; create a list of other users with whom they share a connection within the system; and view and navigate their list of connections and those made by others within the system.”

Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey and California have already passed a similar bills. California, Illinois, Maryland, and Michigan laws apply to employers, while California, Delaware, Michigan and New Jersey have laws that apply to academic institutions.

Currently, there are 21 states that have introduced or have pending legislation about this issue. Last April, H.R. 5050 was introduced to the House of Representatives but was never enacted.

It’s key to note that in section 4.8 of Facebook’s Terms and Conditions, the social networking site explicitly states that:

“You will not share your password (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.”

Under section 5.7, it states that:

“If you collect information from users, you will: obtain their consent, make it clear you (and not Facebook) are the one collecting their information, and post a privacy policy explaining what information you collect and how you will use it.”

So there’s that. What’s your take? Vote in the poll below:


Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • Mike Christensen

    “What would you do?”

    Very simple. Thank them for their time, and walk out the door.

  • Leslie Munday

    it’s got nothing to do with privacy on social media sites (always keep 2 accounts anyway), it’s about giving out my passwords to anyone for any reason.

  • Vroo (Bruce Leban)

    The answer is unequivocally no. I wrote a blog post about this three years ago:

    The two answers in your poll are not opposites. “Those are my private accounts and should be kept private.” Absolutely. My password gives you access to my private information, not just the information I’ve chosen to share.

    “People need to watch what they post on social media.” Absolutely. And employers don’t need your password to see the things you share publicly.

  • tacanderson

    What would you do? – Laugh uncontrollably. Wipe away that stray tear and blog the whole thing when I stopped by the nearest coffee shop.

  • Steve

    As an HR Manager, I would never request his information. However, the candidate/employee would still need to use judgement in what they post in relation to the company, for instance not speaking (or appearing to) on behalf of the company, disparaging the company, no PI. Poor judgement could result in termination.

  • Guest

    HR person (idiot): What is your Face-book password?

    Me: I am not familiar with Face-book. What is it?

    Idiot: Facebook is a social networking website launched in February 2004 that is operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc.

    Me: Why do I need a password?

    Idiot: To log in to your Face-book account, sir.

    Me: Do I need a Face-book account?

    Idiot: No, sir.

    Me: Good. Anything else? (Opens Google+ on my phone, takes photo of idiot, posts insulting message about him)

    Idiot: What is your Twister password?

    Me: I’m sorry?

    Idiot: Twister. The service that lets you Twirt?

    Me: How many passwords do you think I have?

    Idiot: I’ll just put down “password.”

    Me: Thank you.

  • RunTheNumbers

    “You walk into your next job interview, sit down and the employer asks you for all your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and Tumblr passwords. This is a requirement for the job, the interviewer says.”

    Come on, really? Employers are asking for this? I’d like a list of those companies, because I can guarantee any company interested in doing so is already focused on the wrong things. It would be great to understand who isn’t worthy of any consideration as soon as they go about recruiting.

  • Kelly Rates

    They have every right to research what I put out on the internet, especially to make sure I don’t badmouth them and I’m appropriate. But my passwords? HELL NO. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere that requests that infocanyway. We have a right to privacy.

  • Oz

    I suspect that the hullaballoo over this is something akin to Chicken Little. This may have happened to 5 people across the whole US by some nincompoop interviewers who didn’t know any better.

    What would I do if this happened to me? Leave and go file papers at the Illinois Department of Human Rights or the State’s Attorney General.

  • James Smith

    I’d say I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. Then once I got their password I would leave the interview and go post inappropriate content on their page.

Job Listings on GeekWork