Friday, March 30, 2012

Employers Invading Privacy? or (Big Brother is Poking You)

   (That weird Dun dun music from Law and Order) July 2nd, 1996.

    I sat quietly in the conference room at the local supermarket waiting for the manager to enter.  After about five minute's she entered the room and sat down.
  "Hello."  she said and offered me her hand.
    I shook her hand trying to remember all the things you were supposed to do during a job interview.  I think I may have curtsied too.  "I am pleased and humbled to make your acquaintance your majesty"  Ok, I wasn't that dumb.  But I was trying to be super polite in every way I knew how.
    She looked over my application which didn't take too long seeing as I had pretty much zero job experience.  I had maybe two references, which were either teachers or friends that I may have helped move.  "Ok," she said finally.  "First thing I want to know is are you willing to shave and cut your hair?"
   I sat for a moment.  This wasn't what they taught us about job interviews.  What about 'what's your biggest weakness?'  to which I reply 'I work too hard'  or 'When can you start?'  'NOW!'.  I sat for a second. My hair was long yes.  But it was tied back.  I have had my beard ever since the first grade.  I just looked silly without it.  Just like how some people look weird without their glasses.  "Well, I am willing to shave yes."  I thought it was a sacrifice worth making for a job.  "But my hair can be tied back or maybe I could wear a hairnet."
    "Well," she said.  "I don't see any point in asking you any more questions." she said.  Smiling.  "We'll call you if anything comes up."  She pointed me towards the door.  I slowly walked out still dumbfounded.
  I pondered this for the next few days.  "How dare she judge me by my my hair."  Song lyrics began to swim through my head.  "And the sign says 'long haired freaky people, need not apply, so I tucked my hair up under my hat and went in to ask him why."
   I felt discriminated against.  What if my hair was part of my religion?  They would be discriminating against my religion.  Them stupid, work Nazi's!!!  "No job for you!"
   I have mellowed since then.  Looking back I realized two things.

  1. The request wasn't that outrageous.
  2. I was a stupid kid.
 For all I knew, she may have considered me for a job working around some machine that has been known to suck guys in by their pony tails.  It may have come down to one man, being slowly pulled in by his pony tail and still refusing scissors choosing death first. Come to think of it, I think she may have actually saved my life.
     Of course employers are going to ask things you don't expect.  It's part of their job to find the absolute best of the best.

 What exactly is the best of the best?
 I'm glad you asked.  I have compiled a list of what I would look for if I was an employer. This is in order of importance.

  1. An employee may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. An employee must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. An employee must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
  Ok, that' was actually Isaac Asimov's Three laws of robotics with the word "Robot" replaced by the word "Employee".   I think it still works here however.

   Why are you bringing all this employee stuff up?
I'm glad you asked narrative segue. A loyal reader has brought this article to my attention.  What it basically says is they shot down an amendment that would ban employers from asking their employees to hand over their Facebook passwords.  Ok, let's read that again.  Some employers have asked that their employees give them the password to their Facebook account in order to be hired or to keep their job.  I have never even heard of this being a thing.  I have never been asked for the password to anything.  Here is one of the problems. According to this article here as of 2008 61% of internet users had the same password for everything.  Heck, they may as well be asking for your bank information as well.  The problem is, there is nothing illegal in asking a question.  Not really.  You as an american citizen have the right to answer in any way you see fit.
   I live in Illinois, which is a Right to Work state.  You can be fired or refused a job without even a reason.  Yes, I have been in a situation just like that.  I was fired from a retail chain by a manager that just didn't really like me.  No other reason was given or even had to be given.  I only take mild satisfaction in knowing that he was later fired for stealing about a thousand dollars worth of stuff.  I say mild because it didn't really give me my job back.
     Why would an Employer care about your Facebook?
  I'm sure a quick Google search can dig up a ton of stories about a social network related firing.  There was this thing with teachers at a Los Angeles School (Not for the feint of heart).  Mark Berndt a 61 year old teacher in Los Angeles was fired and is held on $23 million bail for lewd acts with pupils (Eye sex? No, pupils means students).   A second teacher Martin Springer has also been arrested from the same freakin' school for allegedly fondling 14 year old girls. If you were a parent of a child in that school I'm sure you would feel a lot better knowing they intend to open with a new staff.
     Were these children saved because of access to Facebook?  Probably.  Then again. They could have also been saved by randomly searching their computers.  I'm sure no one is going to agree to that.  Facebook or any social network is basically that.  A "social" network.  That's like hanging out at a social bar or restaurant.  If you suddenly started taking pictures of underage kids at a Denny's.  I'm sure someone would notice.  I don't think you need someone's password to Facebook or whatever to find things like that out.  Back in the old days, it took a concerned student to come forward to another adult.
    This brings another point.  Adding your boss or your company as a friend.  It's kind of like that boss that wants to hang out and be your friend.
   "Hey, Bob.  Going out for some drinks with the boys.  Mind if I tag along?"  He might say with a smile.
   "Uh, well sure.  Let me just finish up this quick text so the guys can save you an extra chair."  You say nervously while simultaneously texting "Boss is coming,  Cancel the hookers."
   "Great." He says clapping you on the back and probably dislocating your shoulder.
   *BEEP BEEP* comes the next text.  "Too late, but the Candy and Cherry have been paid a little extra to pose as our sisters."
    "Sweet!" I exclaimed.  "Uh, our sisters are going to be joining us as well."

   Should employers require you to add them as a friend?  I don't think so, but a good employer shouldn't have to require you to do anything.  A business relationship should run pretty smoothly.
     I hope this trend doesn't catch on.  Here's something to consider though.  If you are ever refused employment because you refuse to handover your password to your Facebook or Google+ or your Myspace(Remember them?) account ask yourself this question.   "Would you really want to work for those dicks anyway?"
Maybe the answer is "Yes."   With the way the economy is now, finding a good job is hard enough as it is.  Do we really need this crap?
       What are your thoughts on this?  Maybe it's not a big enough thing yet.  It is something to make us question the meaning of privacy.  Please leave your comments and thoughts on this subject.  I am interested in hearing arguments for both sides.




  1. I really like this blog post. (btw that ponytail story...was that real!? I can't imagine you with long hair) Anywho someone said that a quick solution to this handing your password over thing would be to just create a separate account that you can make look good for those employers. However, with the new facebook timeline, it is extremely easy now to see when someone joined facebook, and the employer would catch on. Or, you could just make your profile private and set it up so nobody can even search for you. And tell the employer you don't have a facebook. you don't believe in that social networking shit. That would work, right? I think its ridiculous that employers are even asking for that. I am one of those people who use the same password for a lot of my accounts. But I think the password isn't the big problem, b/c they just may ask you to log in on your own w/o them knowing your password at all, or you could even just change your password later. I think they just want to know if there is anything on your facebook that would be an embarrassment to the company if they hired you. I don't think they will just randomly decide to log into your facebook some night while they are sitting home alone. But ya never know. I think the big issue is that it is an invasion of privacy. If someone wanted you to see their facebook, they would invite you to be their friend. I heard another person say that if people constantly refuse to hand out their passwords, that employers will just eventually stop asking for it b/c it will be seen as unreasonable. I also think it depends on what type of job it is too.

  2. My Facebook is open to the public anyway because I'm not stupid enough to post anything embarrassing, damaging, or incriminating to the Internet at large. If an employer asked me for my password, I'd tell him that I would log him on at any time I was asked, he could have full freedom of my Facebook in my presence, and I would log him out when I was done. Any rejection of that offer would prove there are some shady dealings going on as far as I'm concerned. Another possibility is to give him the password but tell him that if you see so much as one letter of one word out of place, you'll sue him for defamation of character because he's the only other person who has that password.

    Of course, this is offensive because it's basically like handing your employer the keys to your house and saying, "Come in any time! Go through my things! Eat all my food! Take whatever you like! You hate the color of my walls? Repaint them chartreuse! Wear my wife's underwear!" There should be a limit on how much a) control and b) freedom your employer has with your personal life. They're an employer, not a slave owner. They pay us for our time and skill; they don't own us. They need to start remembering that.

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