As news that coaches and employers are asking people for their Facebook passwords grows, it's getting less and less likely that will happen, but tell your kids that a request like that is an invasion of their friends' and relatives' privacy as much as theirs. It can give the person making the unethical request more access to other people's Facebook info than they intended strangers to have. It can also lead to legal liability for an employer or academic institution. Employers, for example, "may not have the proper policies and training for reviewers to handle private information," writes Facebook's chief privacy officer Erin Egan in the Facebook blog. "If they don’t—and actually, even if they do—the employer may assume liability for the protection of the information they have seen or for knowing what responsibilities may arise based on different types of information (e.g. if the information suggests the commission of a crime)." Spotlight on Digital Media & Learning reports that US Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) "is writing a bill to outlaw such requests" because they're "an “unreasonable invasion of privacy for people seeking work.” The reason why I wrote up there that this will happen less and less is because this is a matter of education – recruiters and employers understanding how privacy law applies to a new medium, but until they do, it's good for Facebook users of all ages to understand their own rights and those in their social-media circles and communities so everybody can participate in this education process. As we say in our Parents' Guide to Facebook, safety and privacy are very much a shared proposition in social media. In other words, protecting privacy is as social as the media where it needs safeguarding! Here's further coverage at the Washington Post and MSNBC.
Meanwhile, here's Fast Company on the Department of Homeland Security's monitoring of Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere. It probably doesn't work under the headline I gave the rest of this post! [See also "6 Good Reasons NOT to Ask for Facebook Passwords" at the Privacy Professor blog and ConnectSafely's tips for strong, secure passwords.]