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Studies have shown that Facebook can be a useful hiring tool. Just a 5- to 10-minute perusal of a user's profile can net more information than a basic personality test. It's no wonder employers head to the site to check out prospective hires.
But one problem remains: Many users are now going private, cutting off their profiles from outside viewers. As a result, a new trend has emerged. Employers are reportedly now asking job applicants for Facebook passwords. Is this a good idea? Can you legally ask a job applicant for a Facebook password?
Even though law professor Orin Kerr considers the practice to be "an egregious privacy violation," it appears to be legal. Employers are given wide latitude when it comes to interview questions. They can't ask discriminatory questions, and they may only have limited use of criminal records and credit reports. Otherwise, they're generally free to ask away.
Now, this doesn't mean you should ask job applicants for Facebook passwords. It's very possible you will scare off the most qualified individuals. Some people place a higher value on social networking privacy than others.
Still, you're going to want the information. That's okay, but you need to do it in a way that protects both your interests and that of the applicant. For instance, friend the individual after the interview. They may know why you did it, but if they're not ashamed of their profile, they'll likely accept.
You could also hire the individual on a probationary basis. At that point, it might be more acceptable to become Facebook friends. If you don't like what you see, let the individual go.
If none of these options appeals to you, you can probably go ahead and ask job applicants for Facebook passwords. Just know that some won't give them to you.