Not surprisingly, employers in Florida and across the United States admit to reviewing the social networking profiles of prospective and current employees. Despite the laundry list of potential ethical and legal implications raised by opponents, it has become a common practice in corporate America. However, several situations making headlines in this regard relate to employers who have surpassed ethical guidelines by actually requesting the Facebook passwords of employees and job applicants. Not only does this violate federal and state privacy and employment laws, it has influenced some states to completely ban the practice altogether.
Many people who criticize employers for requesting Facebook and other social media website passwords claim that this practice is no less egregious than asking for the keys to your home or car in order to go through your personal belongings. In response, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicated that it is a federal crime to enter social media networking sites in violations of their terms. Yet, the DOJ maintains that it is not a violation of federal law if current or prospective employees willingly disclose their social media site passwords. Notwithstanding, privacy advocates maintain that the practice transcends moral and ethical bounds because many job applicants who are desperate for employment may feel that they have no choice but to provide employers with their passwords.
At this time, the State of Florida has not directly spoken to the issue at hand however, other states such as Maryland and Illinois are moving towards banning this form of employee screening. Regardless, it is highly recommended that Florida employers take precautions when asking for potentially sensitive information from current and prospective employees. It is also suggested that employers refrain from requesting website passwords until the legislature and court systems have clarified their stance on the issue.