It's no surprise that employers check out the Facebook profiles of prospective employees—after all, you can learn a lot from what people choose to broadcast. But reports are amassing of employers asking recruits for their login details—and that's a step too far.
Associated Press reports that when Justin Bassett, a New York statistician, was interviewed for a job recently, he was asked to disclose his Facebook user name and password. Bassett withdrew his application—sensible man—but many people might not be in a position to hinder their future employment prospects.
While finding someone's profile online is a little like peeking through the window of their home, asking for login details is a bit like asking them for their house keys—it's a massive invasion of privacy. Also, it's dubiously legal, and proposed legislation in Illinois and Maryland is intended to forbid public agencies from asking for access to social networks in this way.
That legislation in part stems from a 2010 incident in which Robert Collins, a security guard at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, was asked for his login and password so the agency could check for any gang affiliations. In that instance, he handed the details over. "I needed my job to feed my family," he said to Associated Press. You can watch Robert Collins talking about the incident in this Gizmodo post from last year.
While there's nothing that can be done to prevent employers taking a look at a profile page, there is plenty that can—and must—be done to prevent them being able to request login details. [Associated Press]