Fines May Not Stop Facebook Snooping by Employers
CREDIT: Shutterstock: Adam Gregor
Illinois is the latest state to impose fines — though only up to a mere $200 — on employers who ask for workers' passwords to Facebook. The new law has been dubbed the "Facebook Bill" and follows precedent-setting legislation passed by Maryland. Meanwhile, California, Connecticut, New York, Washington, Delaware and New Jersey are considering similar bills.
But will penalties be enough to protect indiscreet employees or those seeking work? Aside from it's minimal fine, the law only prevents employers from asking outright for access to your Facebook account, but there are many other paths to seeing your posts, such as their becoming friends of your friends on Facebook. It's nearly impossible to trace the ever-growing Facebook network.
While Illinois' bill makes it illegal for employers to ask for login information or "demand access in any other manner," employers can still ask for your user name on Facebook or any other social network. Unless you've set your account so only you can see your posts — which defeats the purpose of social networking — there's a pretty good chance a controversial update could wind up on the wrong desk.
For instance, say you're Facebook friends with the new guy in accounting, whose cousin's dad is connected on Facebook with the head of Human Resources at your company. It might take just seconds for her to see your complaint about a particularly rude customer. Now you may be subject to disciplinary action despite the Facebook privacy settings you may have put in place.
And while the accidental trail could land you in hot water, employers are taking a growing interest in monitoring the antics of their employees across social media. Research firm Gartner has predicted that 60 percent of employers will be tracking their employees by 2015, despite known risks such as alienating workers.
“The problem lies in the ability of surveillance tools and methods to produce large volumes of irrelevant information,” Andrew Walls Gartner's research vice president, said in a statement. “This personal information can be exposed accidentally or become the target of voyeuristic behavior by security staff.”
The best advice is simply never to post anything that you don't want your boss to see.