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Bosses requiring employees to disclose their social media passwords

Businesses may mean well by protecting their brands, but there are ethical alternatives to requiring passwords of employees’ personal accounts be given up – here is what brands should do to adapt.

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Employers now asking for Facebook passwords

Because legislation on social media privacy has not been adopted at the speed that consumers have adopted the tools, questionable situations have popped up all over the world, even here in America. Employers are asking potential employees to share their Facebook passwords and binding employees to strict “social media policies,” and tech writers across America are expressing rage at the ignorance of businesses, but at AGBeat we thought we would take a look at the flip side – why are businesses comfortable asking interviewees and employees for this access?

As a business owner, monitoring how your brand is being used online is important. Knowing how your employees are portraying the brand you’ve built is important. Some believe that social media is a great way to know the inner workings of employees, particularly if they are engaged in any illegal behavior.

Because these three things are relevant to a business owner or team leader, many are either asking employees (or potential employees) to share their Facebook (or other social networks) passwords or are asking them to log in in their presence to “shadow” them. While the legality is being questioned, it certainly raises many red flags. Not only is it an invasion of privacy, it is likely to be illegal with amended legislation.

Business owners may think it is harmless and have no intention of taking action on any findings, but as a business, if you wouldn’t ask an employee for a copy of their house key, the combination to their personal safe, or for permission to put cameras in their home, you wouldn’t ask for access to their personal social networking sites.

Forcing employees to be Facebook friends

For the more tech savvy businesses that recognize the red flags and how invasive (and in the long run, potentially illegal) it is to request password information, some are requiring1 employees to befriend someone in human resources or in the organization that can monitor their public profile and public status updates. This still lends privacy in that private messages are not accessible, but still raises red flags.

Again, business owners are not aware of the implications of what they are demanding, and most are small businesses simply trying to make sure their brand is represented properly. For example, ReadWriteWeb2 recently reported that one company notified an ex-employee that they were in violation of their social media policy for not updating their social network profiles to reflect she was no longer in their employ.

As a business owner, you likely take their side in that your name is still being used publicly and likely benefiting the former employee’s credibility, but this particular company thought ahead enough to have a social media policy, but not only did it not likely include a time frame for which employees must change social profiles online after leaving, but allegedly failed to include this requirement in the exit paperwork. It is becoming common for companies to have a social media policy, but most fail to follow through and include any requirements in exit paperwork or elsewhere.

Simply finding a way around the potentially unethical practice of demanding social network passwords is not good enough, businesses must have a social media policy and must execute it across the board.

Facebook forbids password sharing

Fascinatingly, when users sign up for a Facebook account, they agree to the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (the equivalent of the Terms of Service). In Section 4, “Registration and Account Security,” item number 8 reads, “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.”

Also notable to employers, Section 3, “Safety,” item number 5 reads, “You will not solicit login information or access an account belonging to someone else.”

The Facebook Help Center tells users in the “Security Tips” section, “Never give out your username or password. Never share your login credentials (ex: email address and password) for any reason.”

So what should businesses do?

Most businesses aren’t trying to be Big Brother, many are simply trying to protect their brand. To achieve this same peace of mind, employers need to do three things.

First, establish a meaningful social media policy that is available online so that potential employees can review before showing up to an interview that asks for their Facebook password (which some will give out of intimidation), and so that current employees can review in depth.

Second, this policy must be thorough and implemented across the board, and as mentioned before, any requirements must be made clear at the time they are necessary, for example requiring employees to remove your brand name as their employer on social networks within 7 days of their leaving the organization.

Lastly, businesses need to use common sense. If you wouldn’t ask your employees for a key to their personal storage unit, their bank account password, access to interview their spouse and children about their character, or an STD panel, you shouldn’t ask for first hand access to their Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or any account. Your having their password is against the policies of these social networks, even if you think it’s ethical (which it is not, even if you’re well meaning).

Set up monitoring on what your employees say publicly and enforce your social media policy, but don’t ask for passwords or require any user to befriend HR – legislation will (likely) eventually outlaw any business from having access to a personal social media account. Social networks are public and private companies can outline their rules if their employees’ accounts are public, but asking for passwords is over the line even if it is legal.

1MSN Money
2ReadWriteWeb

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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49 Comments

49 Comments

  1. Drew Meyers

    March 18, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    There is no way I’d ever give that info to an employer. You’re working for the wrong employer if they’re demanding access to your personal social media accounts.

  2. Matthew Hardy

    March 19, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    To my thinking, this reveals the inherent “bait and switch” underlying social media and concomitant philosophy that long-standing definitions of privacy are passé. People have been taught that exchanging personal information for free stuff has no cost.

    Mmm. You can’t get a job because of what your SM accounts indicate, or because you won’t submit your credentials. You delete your SM accounts. You don’t get a job because you have no SM accounts — and you don’t know that’s the reason. (Of course there’s no cost.)

    I think this shift began many years ago, when drug tests and background checks were very uncommon and typically required only for the most relevant type of work. Slowly, these requirements became common and for more types of work. I’m not discussing the merits of testing, but societal acquiescence to more aggressive intrusion into our lives — that nobody I knew growing up was used to.

    On your topic, I hope reaction contributes to changes regarding data services, so that individuals are absolute rights-holders and providers adopt interoperability and portability as market requirements.

    To add to your list of comparative technologies and a good model going forward is that of telephony. Would you expect, as a requirement for employment, to submit recordings and transcripts of all your calls?

    > Some believe that social media is a great way to know the inner workings of employees, particularly if they are engaged in any illegal behavior.

    That sounds so innocuous. If someone is involved in what someone else might consider illegal behavior, we already have the police and the courts. If someone breaks a law, gets arrested and is convicted and their company has a policy to terminate based on such convictions, then the company’s interests come into play. Until then, it’s not their purview.

    > Because these three things are relevant to a business owner or team leader

    Because a business deems something relevant, does not make it so. The presumption of innocence and rights to privacy trump all manufactured “relevancies”.

    Branding is a marketing mechanism — a non-personal invention. Because people are not brands, there is no such thing as “personal branding”. In my (hopefully not utterly antiquated) view, companies have no rights to control any time not paid for. For employers to even comment on conduct that is outside of time they’re paying for is an affront.

    I am glad you stated it plainly:

    > asking for passwords is over the line

  3. Pablo De Fleurs

    March 20, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    If I was in charge of a specific FB page relating to a brand, then I’d expect to have the password be intellectual property of the company for which i was working.

    But personal accounts…no way…EVER. Not my FB, not my Twitter, not my Pinterest nor any of my blogs. If they demand, tell ’em to A,B,C,D,E, F-off.

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Social Media

Social media is being used for hiring, and no, we’re not talking just LinkedIn

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Social media has evolved from being only community-oriented to career-oriented. See how users are getting jobs by being creative.

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social media, like tiktok, is being used for hiring. here are some examples of tiktok resumes.

Gen Z and Millennials are no doubt the heaviest users of social media, and perhaps the internet in general. But it’s no longer just about catching up with friends and family, posting memes, and hailing yourself as hashtag king – they are using it to get jobs in creative ways.

Kahlil Greene was a student at Yale University hell-bent on educating others about African American social movements and culture. Known as “The Gen Z Historian” on Instagram, TikTok, and LinkedIn, he got to posting about the lesser-known facts and stories of history, amounting to 1.3 million views very quickly, catching the attention of employers. Now with over 500,000 followers across all major platforms, Greene is heading to work in consulting focusing on public education.

“I think that’s the thing that people don’t realize that social media is everywhere, and it’s congruent with every lifestyle you want,” says Greene.

Another TikToker, Emily Zugay, has over 2 million followers on the platform from hilariously redesigning brand logos. Her personality of shooting down brand choices with such a dry delivery is sure to make you giggle. She’s appeared on Ellen, and many brands changed their logos to her suggestions, including McDonald’s, the NFL, Tinder, Doritos, and Nascar. Just announced, Panera Bread is realizing limited holiday cups by Emily Zugay, taking a stab at Starbucks who typically creates the mad rush for holiday cups. Though she hasn’t publicly spoken about taking on a new role due to her wacky design endeavors, she has been approached for many partnership collaborations and markets herself as a content creator on the platform in order to rack in the dough.

Having the perfect one-page resume and perhaps, an inkling of personalization in the cover letter (which no one enjoys writing and barely anyone reads), is no longer the secret to landing jobs. 92% of companies use social media to hire.

“Creating a personal brand doesn’t have to be scary, hard, or time-consuming. You just have to be yourself. Consistent posts, a few follows and some direct messaging can go a long way to open doors.”

TikTok launched a pilot program of applying to the short-form video powerhouse by well, making a TikTok on the platform. Within 48 hours, 800 videos were submitted with #TikTokResumes in their captions. Expanding from internal hiring to external hiring, the program allowed job seekers to apply with their videos to Chipotle, Target, Shopify, and more.

Want to get in on the action but don’t know where to start? Unfortunately, the TikTok submissions have now closed, but you can always follow these tips to start getting creative for your next career move: Embrace the tools on the platform, do your research about the company you’re applying to, make connections on the platform and within the company, show off achievements as you would in a typical resume, and be yourself!

For more cool resume ideas, check out this article on the most creative techie resumes.

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Reactions to Twitter Blue from real subscribers, p.s. its not worth it

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Twitter’s paid subscription service, Twitter Blue, gives more control over tweets and custom UI, but subscriber reception has been lukewarm.

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Twitter Blue Sign Up Page

Twitter Blue, a paid subscription service that gives users increased control over their tweets and the appearance of their interfaces, launched this summer. Subscriber reception has been lukewarm, foreshadowing some resistance to shifts away from advertising-based revenue models for social media platforms.

The allure of Twitter Blue isn’t immediately apparent; beyond a relatively low price tag and increased exclusivity on a platform that emphasizes individuality, the service doesn’t offer much to alter the Twitter experience. Twitter Blue’s main selling point – the ability to preview and alter tweets before sending them – may not be enough to convince users to shell out the requisite three dollars per month.

Other features include the option to change the theme color and icon appearances. Twitter Blue subscribers can also read some ad-supported news articles without having to view ads courtesy of Twitter’s acquisition of Scroll, a company that provides ad-free news browsing.

But even with this variety of small customization options and the promise of more to come, users are skeptical. Android Central’s Shruti Shekar is one such user, beginning her review with, “Right off the bat, this feature isn’t worth the money you’d be spending on it every month.”

Shekar posits that the majority of the features are wasted on long-term users. “I think a lot of my opinions come from a place of using Twitter for so long in a certain way that I’ve gotten used to it, and now I find it challenging to adapt to something that would theoretically make my life easier,” she explains.

One of those adaptations centers on Twitter Blue’s “Undo Tweet” feature – something that belies the notion of proofreading and using common sense before sending thoughts into the nether.

“For me, 95% of the time, I really do pay attention to my tweets before I send them out,” says Shekar.

Twitter Blue checking Tweets before sending.

Shekar does praise Twitter Blue’s “Reader Mode” feature that allows users to view threads as uninterrupted columns but argues that the feature would probably end up being underutilized despite being a cool concept.

The aforementioned color and theme customization was of little interest to Shekar. “I actually found it a bit challenging to get used to the other colors, not because they’re ugly, but again because I am just so used to the classic blue,” she says.

One problem here is that the options to change link and theme colors and put threads in reader mode seem more like accessibility features than premium content. Twitter might do well to make these available to all users, if for no other reason than to avoid criticism about locking quality of life updates behind a subscription paywall.

Shekar’s criticism hits on a crucial point for any social media company looking to emulate Twitter Blue’s subscription model: Even if the subscription price is low, companies have to be prepared to make actual meaningful changes to the user experience if they want satisfied subscribers. That includes building in options that don’t fundamentally alter the basic aspects (or appearance) of the platform.

For more on Twitter Blue, check out their blog post on it here.

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Instagram flaunts new features, including a decked out desktop experience  

(SOCIAL MEDIA) It’s been a time of exciting product and feature announcements for Instagram with additions of Collabs, fundraisers, and desktop posts on deck

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Instagram displayed on a desktop

It’s been a time of exciting product and feature announcements for Instagram on both mobile and desktop.

Collabs Feature

“Collabs” allows up to 2 accounts to co-author a post or Reel, both sharing joint ownership of what is ultimately published. The post or Reel will show up equally on both users’ feeds with the same amount of engagement numbers, but combined, including comments, view numbers, and like counts. This is initiated through the tagging screen and the invited account will have to accept the offer before the collab can be complete.

Examples of adding a co-author in Instagram Collabs feature

Fundraiser & Reel Features

Instagram was quick to jump on the short-form content trends taking the social media world by storm. With the rise of TikTok, the Insta platform that was originally focused on static photos added Reels, along the same wavelength of short 15, 30, or 60-second videos, though the competitor has now expanded with the option of 3 minutes. Even so, Instagram is taking the time to improve music-related features within the Reels section of the app, adding “Superbeat” and “Dynamic.” The first adds effects to the video matching the beat of the chosen song, while the latter offers unique and interesting ways to display the song’s lyrics on screen. In addition, they are beginning to test the option to run fundraisers on a post by clicking the + button in the top right corner of the interface.

Examples of Dynamic for Reels feature

 Desktop Feature

FINALLY! Instagram is now realizing just how many users truly enjoy the desktop experience. If one were to compare the platform on the mobile app vs. desktop, they would see the slew of differences between the two with the desktop interface looking like the 1st year Instagram was even introduced. Functionality is no comparison; they only just added the ability to DM on desktop last year. As one can see, there is an extremely limited experience on desktop, but Instagram is now rolling out the ability for users to post from their browsers. Catch us enjoying posts on the big screen!

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