Pass your passwords forward please

At last year’s How to Become a Firefighter Workshop here in Northern (some will argue Central, long story) California, I presented on technology in the job hunt, focusing specifically on the pitfalls of social media.  It is a fantastic all day seminar held at the Las Positas Fire College and includes lunch cooked by the students.  The cost of the seminar? $12. Including lunch and a chance to speak to the people hiring you one on one, let them preview your resume etc.  Where was this when I was getting hired?

The seminar attracts Battalion Chiefs, Division Chiefs, Officers from a number of large metropolitan departments and someone you know who writes a blog.  Our pals Judon Cherry, Chris Eldridge, Sam Bradley and Thaddeus Setla helped film the video for the program and this year Judon and the Dridge were there again.  Oh, and I have nothing to do with the kick ass indexed screen shot BTW.  have a look:

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The attendees had some great questions about facebook, twitter, email a whole host of issues, but one comment from the audience stood out and has caught traction recently.

In my presentation I mention that some employers are asking that you friend their HR director on facebook prior to the interview.  When I mentioned that the Chiefs you’re speaking with may want to friend you as well, one of them spoke up from the audience,

“I don’t want to be your friend, I want your password.”

The audience was silent.

If you were one of the final applicants being considered for this job, would you give a prospective employer, or anyone for that matter, your facebook password?

It could be considered an invasion of privacy, but I can’t think of a better way to see what someone does when they think no one is watching.  And with the way that an employee can ruin a department’s reputation with the simple click of “share” I think it is reasonable to ask for it.

So this year, when I gave the presentation, we discussed the privacy settings pages and how to eliminate tags in photos perhaps you wish others had not uploaded, comments on posts that maybe you made late at night after drinking studying, or perhaps something rather inflamatory, deragatory, racist, sexist, heterophobic…you get the idea.

It’s actually a good idea for everyone to visit those pages every few months just to check and see what you look like from the inside of social media.  We make comments to one circle of friends the other circles may find offensive, but is any of that going to be considered immature, dishonest or a misrepresentation of who we really are?  It matters greatly if the three key traits an emploer is looking for are maturity, honesty and trust.

What do you think?

If you got called up for your dream job in the fire service and they asked for your password, what would you do?

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20 thoughts on “Pass your passwords forward please”

    1.  Well Jeff is the smartest kid in class, and fast too.  It is in fcact a violation of Facebook’s terms of service.  But then again, so is choosing a name not your own, using hateful language and posting other people’s intellectual property. 
      Registration and Account Security

      Facebook users provide their real names and information, and we need your help to keep it that way. Here are some commitments you make to us relating to registering and maintaining the security of your account:

          You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
          You will not create more than one personal profile.
          If we disable your account, you will not create another one without our permission.
          You will not use your personal profile for your own commercial gain (such as selling your status update to an advertiser).
          You will not use Facebook if you are under 13.
          You will not use Facebook if you are a convicted sex offender.
          You will keep your contact information accurate and up-to-date.
          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.
          You will not transfer your account (including any page or application you administer) to anyone without first getting our written permission.
          If you select a username for your account we reserve the right to remove or reclaim it if we believe appropriate (such as when a trademark owner complains about a username that does not closely relate to a user’s actual name).
      But do they know this?  Perhaps bringing this printed would diffuse the issue?

  1. Even though I am on the LE side at one interview I had to list all email addresses associated with me, and log into any social media websites I had memberships in. They only looked at the wall posts, made copies and looked at any photos I had. I had nothing to hide so I didn’t see it as a problem. 

  2. If it was truly my ‘dream job’ I’d cancel the account and just not have one. Otherwise I’d tell them ‘thank you, but no’. It’s not just *my* privacy that concerns me, but also that of my 14yo niece who has her privacy set so only family can see her page. Why would they need access to that?

  3. I think its one of the remaining or smaller parts of a general issue. Surrendering passwords, blood and urine tests with health insurance and jobs, polygraph tests, dont ask dont tell, procedures on women’s health, background checks, airport body scans, patriot act and phone tapping. I know its a bit silly to bring up these things, but I honestly want to know where the buck stops. When do we say enough is enough, you can’t have anymore. Maybe we’re already at that place.

    1. We gave up privacy the first time we gave an online status update.  Bill Maher said it right when he said that you can’t complain about a lack of privacy when you check in at home on four square and blog about your dog.

      1. Perhaps and I see the truth in that statement.  If its so public then they can find what they want to find for themselves without my passwords and violation of the TOS. They want to do an internet search on an applicant, go do it. 

  4. Refuse, and if necessary, withdraw my application. At least where I am you can make te argument it would violate human rights code.
    What’s next? Would you like my email password? Voicemail password? My bank pin? To open my mail? Maybe search my house?
    Today, especially for someone younger like myself, a significant part of my life carries over into the online world. I personally don’t think asking to see the information set specifically as private on Facebook is very different from wanting to see my mail (email or snail-mail). And if it doesn’t affect my ability to show up on time and do the job, and if I don’t take te job home with me and post on Facebook, then my private life is not your business.

    1.  How about your credit score? Can I talk to your previous employers? Previous girlfriends? Your mother?  I believe asking for the password can elicit a response from the candidate, but as Jeff mentioned at the top of this string, sharing your password is a violation of the terms of service, so, in fact, giving it is breaking a contract which should be seen as worse than not sharing IMHO.  But it does open up larger privacy issues.

    2. I was just thinking of what’s next, an iphone/android app that sits in the background as a process and uploads every mobile pic you take in real time to your boss. That outta keep people from taking pictures of patients.

  5. Just as in EMS, there are many things that we “can” do, but just shouldn’t do because it is not in the best interest of our patients. 

    I chuckle at this often as the people that are doing the asking are the same group that probably had the same issues as they are policing.  Ask a police officer who makes the best detective/investigator?  Often the answer will be a person that pushed the law and perhaps even fractured it at times.  The only difference between then and now is that people believe because it is recorded they should get to see it. 25 years ago, an authority figure would chew you out, maybe give some restitituion, and drop you off to let your parent(s) deal with you, which was often worse then the legal side of things.  How many current police/fire/ems people would not have their jobs if everything that they did was recorded and held against them forever??  I would bet many many less.

    Part of what helps children grow into adults is making mistakes. It is wrong that we now use those learning opportunities as reasons to not hire someone that has matured.  Let kids be kids and have their mistakes. Kids need to learn to clean it up and bare responsibility in it too, however if something happened only once and it was five years ago, it shouldn’t keep you from your future.  That is just everyone going overboard.  Just with most things, it is time the pendulum starts to swing back to the middle.

  6. I recently went through an extremely thorough background process for
    an Ambulance Operator position for a Fire Department in California which included a
    polygraph.  At the time I had a Facebook, at the end of my background
    interview the topic of social media came up.  He pushed a laptop towards
    me and told me to login into my Facebook.  I did.  We preceded to go through
    all my posts and pictures for about twenty minutes.  I didn’t have
    anything unprofessional in there but in the end he said to just delete Facebook if you’re serious
    about becoming a Firefighter. 

    I have now deleted Facebook.  It has saved me endless amounts of time and worry for the future.

    In the end if you really want the job and still want Facebook. 
    You’re going to have to give up your password.  The thing to remember is
    if you wouldn’t say or do it in uniform you shouldn’t be putting it on
    the internet.

    Wish I would have known about the seminar it would have been nice to attend…

    1. They asked you to delete it?  Wow.  If I could get you a better job would you quit reading blogs too?  Talk about an employer who doesn’t understand social media…

      1. Well, put yourself in my situation.  I’m aspiring to get into the service and you have a background investigator sitting across from you.  If you refuse giving them the information they are requesting the ball starts tumbling into the wrong direction right away.  Reading blogs and facebook/twitter accounts are two different things.  Facebook/Twitter is much more of a reflection of personal character than the blogs they read.

        I lived in the Bay Area for three years and I think that Bay Area Departments may be more accepting to social media because it’s the birthplace of social media essentially.  While Departments here in Southern California are still not open to the idea of social media.  I believe social media in the Fire Service is extremely underused.  Boston Fire Department, has made great use of their twitter and facebook accounts.  They send out posts and tweets with useful information for the lay person such as changing smoke alarm batteries or CPR classes and it reaches thousands of citizens but that’s another discussion.

        Have you spoke to background investigators at your department?  and how are the dealing with the situation and what are their beliefs?

  7. Facebook has also said employers should not ask.

    “If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your
    password, let anyone access your account, or do anything that might
    jeopardize the security of your account or violate the privacy of your
    friends,” Facebook Chief Privacy Officer

    Yes Facebook has a privacy officer (that’s funny)


  8. Let’s not forget it’s a two-way job interview. They’re interviewing a prospective employee, you’re interviewing a prospective employer.

    And for me, asking for my password would automatically disqualify you as a prospective employer.

    Google me if you want, I have nothing to hide. I’ll even friend the hiring manager or human resources person.

    But that’s as far as it goes.

  9. Facebook has stated that it will file lawsuits against companies that ask potential employees for their Facebook account passwords.

    “As a user, you shouldn’t be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job. And as the friend of a user, you shouldn’t have to worry that your private information or communications will be revealed to someone you don’t know and didn’t intend to share with just because that user is looking for a job. That’s why we’ve made it a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password.”

  10. I agree with Ambulance Driver. I’ll log in to the account in their presence, friend them, whatever; but they will not be given my password.

    Giving someone a Facebook password doesn’t just give them information, it allows them to CHANGE things, or even post things as if they were you. Granted, it’s a stretch to think a major department would abuse that access; but why the hell do they need that ability in the first place.

  11. I would not surrender my Facebook password to a potential employer. As Jeff said, that’s a violation of the Facebook terms of service. As Kelly said, asking me for the password would automatically remove that entity from the list of potential employers. While I understand that the entity may have a reputation to uphold, their interest in upholding their reputation does not outweigh my interest in keeping my personal life PERSONAL. I do not post about work on Facebook except in the very vaguest of terms. I don’t write about patients or co-workers. I don’t even identify my employer by name. On Facebook, I’m an EMT-Paramedic at “Ambulance Job #2″ and am formerly an EMT-Basic at “Ambulance Job #1.” Furthermore, as was also alluded to, giving my password would compromise the privacy of many of my Facebook friends, who have their privacy settings adjusted so only their friends can see their profiles.

    I would consider logging into my account in front of them, but I also would NOT “friend them.” It wouldn’t do any good. My co-workers who are also “Facebook Friends” have their own privacy group and can’t see much of what I post. That’s mainly because I am outspoken in a political sense on my personal Facebook page and I don’t want to get into political arguments with people I work with.

    My employer knows that I am on Facebook, knows that I am on Twitter, and knows that I have a blog. They know these things because I TOLD THEM, voluntarily, without being asked, and AFTER I was already in their employ. I offered this information in the interests of “full disclosure.” They received my assurances that my blog, in particular, would not compromise their company, our service, or my patients in any way, shape or form. Their response was simply “If you’ve read and are familiar with our social media policy, we have nothing to worry about.” THAT is the way it should be. 

    As Justin alluded to in the original post, we could all do ourselves a world of good if we adjusted our privacy settings to keep people from tagging us in posts or photos without our approval, are discerning and careful about the pictures we post ourselves, and make our posts private.

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