“Oh brave new world! That has such people in’t!” In context, this line by Miranda in Shakespeare’s The Tempest (Act V, scene 1), was ironic. Huxley’s title Brave New World, also ironic. Let’s visit another literary work: A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. A little less facetious and considerably closer to Orwell’s 1984.
AP recentlyreported that Justin Basset was asked for his FaceBook log in info during an interview so that the company could examine his page because his profile was set to private. Basset withdrew his application. (Job seekers getting asked for Facebook passwords)
This egregious request – and expectation that it will be met – isn’t a stand-alone act. It just happens to be blatant enough that there’s action moving against it. But the principle is condoned within the parameters of other invasive acts, some of which we willingly participate in. So allow me to digress a bit and follow along outside of the job search world for a minute.
- Want gas or electricity? A phone? Cable service? Hand over your ss#.
- Get savings and gifts! Just swipe this little tag you carry on your keychain…. (how many of those do you have?)
- Prevent terrorism! Millions support the Patriot Act, which allows the FBI to freely search emails, phone records, and financial records without a court order.
- Been “frisked” or searched when you went through the metal detector prior to flying?
- How much of the world knows who you are, what you’re doing, who and what you like and don’t like, where you live and went to school, when your birthday is…..because you’re all over social media?
This is not an exhaustive list by any means.
Hiring companies have always conducted references. Government related entities have always done their checking a little more arduously, and in some cases, rightly so. But then private companies started with the background checks and fingerprinting. Then drug tests – even if you weren’t operating machinery. In the last few years credit checks were added to the mix.
As a career coach, I teach job seekers how to take back control of their career by not doing everything they’re told, showing them why they don’t have to follow rules such as submitting their resume online and teaching them more productive and effective ways. I’ve long maintained the reason the companies take all the power is because job seekers give it to them.
But this Facebook thing is different. There’s not a way around it. You either give it up or go home. Obviously not everyone is going to be able to go home, like Basset was. So what do you do if that’s you? You still go home.
Don’t be cowed into submission or rationalize it by telling yourself you’ve nothing to hide. A company who will ask you to hand over that information has no respect for boundaries and that will show up elsewhere after they’ve employed you. Signing yourself in so they can nose around isn’t any more acceptable.
Acquiescing is the same as condoning. Letting a company blur your boundaries is no different than being in a relationship where your partner has no respect for your boundaries. They’re both invasive and abusive.
Nothing is black and white, especially to a private company who wants to rationalize their screening process for hiring, because unacceptable behavior is tough to define. What is one company’s harmless behavior can be another company’s cause for dismissal. It’s the principle we’re talking about here, and the principle is controlling others. It’s coercion.
For the record, note the article says the Dept of Justice regards it as a federal crime to enter a social networking site in violation of the TOS (although they’re not prosecuting for it), and that both MD and IL have proposed legislation making this illegal.
Have enough respect for yourself to leave, just as Bassett did. Because if too many people don’t, then bit by bit, it becomes acceptable, simply because there are too many complying.