Special Report

As Reports Of Employers Demanding Employee’s Facebook Passwords Pour In – Facebook and Sears Respond

By Staff Editor  PK

On March 23, 2012 – Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan, responded to mounting reports and complaints from customers over employers who were demanding to know employee or potential employee Facebook passwords as part of background checks and other reasons which risked being malicious. Facebook affirmed its stance that this is a gross violation of personal privacy and its Terms of Service, which states that Facebook users are never permitted to share their passwords. More so that this opens employers up to possible civil and criminal penalties, when accessing private information of employees. A primary concern is that a potential employer may use the private information or otherwise protected free speech on the Facebook account to illegally discriminate against the employee or applicant.

Statement from Facebook:

In recent months, we’ve seen a distressing increase in reports of employers or others seeking to gain inappropriate access to people’s Facebook profiles or private information.  This practice undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends.  It also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability.

The most alarming of these practices is the reported incidences of employers asking prospective or actual employees to reveal their passwords.  If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password, let anyone access your account, or do anything that might jeopardize the security of your account or violate the privacy of your friends.  We have worked really hard at Facebook to give you the tools to control who sees your information.

As a user, you shouldn’t be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job.  And as the friend of a user, you shouldn’t have to worry that your private information or communications will be revealed to someone you don’t know and didn’t intend to share with just because that user is looking for a job.  That’s why we’ve made it a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password.

We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think it’s the right thing to do.  But it also may cause problems for the employers that they are not anticipating.  For example, if an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don’t hire that person.

Employers also may not have the proper policies and training for reviewers to handle private information.  If they don’t—and actually, even if they do–the employer may assume liability for the protection of the information they have seen or for knowing what responsibilities may arise based on different types of information (e.g. if the information suggests the commission of a crime).

Facebook takes your privacy seriously.  We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges.

While we will continue to do our part, it is important that everyone on Facebook understands they have a right to keep their password to themselves, and we will do our best to protect that right.

While doing research on companies who might request such information, discovered that Sears Roebuck, & Co. was one such group that during the employment application process requested to connect to the user Facebook account via an application called “”. Some companies use this application to link to accounts such as Facebook and LinkedIn to gather detailed information for purposes of filling out an online employment application in a speedy fashion.

When we tried the application, it requested to access information that we felt to be far outside the scope of employment.

As you see in the picture below, the application requested in addition to contact information for the applicant; it wanted to access information of the applicant’s friends, including their work histories. contacted Sears for a statement to address our concerns over this unusual information request of applicants and for a response to Facebook’s statement over privacy; Kimberly Freely a spokesperson for Sears Holdings Corporation (the parent company of Sears and its related companies such as K-Mart) issued this statement:


“Sears Holdings does not collect, require or want Facebook passwords.  We use a third party app that interacts with the applicants to allow a candidate to voluntarily share their Facebook or LinkedIn work history with us to streamline the application process” This app also requests permission to access “friend’s lists” but it used by the app in an aggregate form to improve data reporting and is not passed back to Sears. The only information our company receives is their work history which allows candidates to be considered for other jobs in the future or for ones that they may not realize are available currently.”


This is a developing story, stay tuned to for updates as they occur



  • Facebook Statement
  • Facebook Terms Of Service