Backseat social networking

March 22, 2012
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

Andrew Terefenko

Opinions Editor


You were certain. Absolutely sure that nobody would ever find out about that sexist comment you privately messaged to your friend six months ago. Then the reality of modern interview practices hits you like a freight train and you find yourself embarrassed and jobless.

Where did this startling new trend emerge? America, land of the mostly free, of course. Deep in the bowels of Baltimore, Maryland, a job prospect found himself at odds when his to-be-employer asked for his Facebook username and password, so his techies could delve into his account and vet him thoroughly. He called this practice “akin to giving them my house keys.” Well said.

The man refused, as one might given the circumstances, but the event definitely turned some heads as major litigation began the conceptual process to disallow this disgusting practice. Due to the Wild West-like nature of Internet regulation, this is going to become much more common before the good word comes down and either bans or ignores it.

I’ll go ahead and save you some trouble, then, future employers. Seven months ago I messaged my sister a humourous picture encouraging women to stay in the kitchen. A week after that I liked a borderline racist comment discouraging continuing immigration practices in Canada. Yesterday I joined a Facebook group that promised to end the run of a prominent religious group if it reached one million members. Does that information rub you the wrong way? That is, of course, the reason I set my profile to private, so your sensitive, hiring ears and eyes don’t have to be exposed to the ugliness that is my secret online world.

The house key analogy is quite poignant. By providing your account login credentials it is tantamount to inviting your employer into your digital home, to root through your stuff and try to find any dirt that might compromise your hiring prospects. They will look through your messages, private and otherwise, your groups, your profile information and, in most cases, every single photo that you may or may not have intended to be viewed by random people.

Who are we to say no? Not everyone can afford walking out of the rare job interview stage on principle alone. Most of us will submit to this process and thoroughly de-weed our accounts beforehand, but is that really the response we should be giving? We have prided ourselves on being a society of unmitigated freedom, prosperous in privacy from coast to coast. When we have to trim the fat of our private lives, we are ceding the right to control our actions and submitting to frighteningly Orwellian practices.

Tomorrow I will probably do something equally unacceptable in the eyes of human resource executives, but thankfully they will never have to know because I will not give them that opportunity. I will do many things for a job, but compromising my digital integrity, if you would like to call it that, is not one of them.

Because only a dumbass would give a stranger their house keys.

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