Is your Facebook account private from an employer? Should it be?

One question I was asked at the last Social Media Surgery was – could I say something about employers access to employees Facebook accounts. Yes I can.

There has been a trend in the US of employers asking to have access to employees Facebook accounts.

This has gone so far that Facebook have reacted to it by saying that they will not give out passwords to employers see this Wired article: Facebook takes on employers over forced access to staff accounts

Indeed concern has spread more widely as ComputerWord says Senators call for probe of employers seeking Facebook info

To be bang up to date there was a fascinating interview on the World Service this morning with Robert Collins in Maryland. He went for an interview to be re-employed by a correctional centre. At the interview he was asked to hand over his Facebook password and while he was there the interviewer accessed his account to ‘review’ it.

The result being – Maryland Lawmakers Ban Employers from Requesting Facebook Credentials from Employees or Interviewees

So what can we conclude from this. Well if you are an employer in the US its probably not a good idea to ask for employees passwords to their social media accounts.

Does anyone ask for passwords in the UK? I don’t know but it’s probably not a good idea to start.

Social media guidance part 1 – do you have a ‘private life’ any more?

I attended a fascinating discussion yesterday at #Teacamp (a monthly get together for digital geeks) about social media guidance for the public sector.

The Government Digital Service, on behalf of central government, are updating the existing social media guidance for civil servants which is now a few years old.

The overall thrust of the guidance, as before, is going to be follow the Civil Service Code – or as it is often summarised ‘don’t be a muppet’. For the other non-government organisations this typically means following their ‘Code of Conduct’ or equivalents. All pretty standard stuff.

What provoked some heated debate was when it was stated that as public servants we cannot have a private ‘digital life’ anymore.

It was argued that it is not very difficult from our digital footprint to know that we work in the public sector and for whom. So when we post to Facebook or use a ‘private’ Twitter account others can still make judgements about what we like and our behaviours.

It was suggested that as such activity can often be seen by those who make a slight effort to be nosey and therefore we could ‘have a problem Huston’.

This was one example – what if we are always seen reading Guardian articles online yet are supposed to be impartial civil servants? Will my policy advice then become suspect in the eyes of Ministers?

Someone protested – ‘but I have a right to a private life and I did not sign that away when I became a civil servant’.

However more agreed than disagreed with the growing lack of a private ‘digital life’.

What do you think?

Are you ‘always on’ and concious of who you work for in the public, or indeed private sector, whenever you use social media?