JObsSocial media such as Facebook, Twitter, and a host of other sites have become increasingly prominent in people’s personal lives over the years. More and more people regularly post personal information meant only to be seen by their friends and family. Unfortunately, this has now become another way for employers to seek out information on candidates that may be deemed inappropriate, thereby costing them a possible job. One such employer is the Virginia State Police. If you are looking for a career in law enforcement be prepared to sign into Facebook, Twitter, and any other site of its kind in the presence of an administrator.

According to Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, in order to apply for a police officer position you must sign a waiver to allow an administrator to go through all of your social networking profiles. This way they can review the information available in order to complete a character check. It is a way for law enforcement officials to make sure candidates show proper ethics and morals. A similar situation existed with the Maryland Division of Corrections. They not only required access to personal information via these social networks, but also required any job candidates to provide them with passwords for these sites. Maryland quickly discontinued this practice after a prison security guard complained to the American Civil Liberties Union. Now Maryland requires the candidate to show them their profiles without having to provide the password, in the same manner that Virginia does.

The practice of requiring access to Facebook profiles has risen in the past year in both the government and private sector. Catherine Crump, attorney at The American Civil Liberties Union, stated that not only is it a distressing situation for those individuals seeking jobs, but it could also pose a serious problem for employers as well. There is a series of questions that you are not allowed to ask in a job interview, reminded Crump, including asking if a candidate has children. Questions such as these are not allowed because it discriminates based on familial status. If the interviewer has access to the applicant’s Facebook profile, much of this information is available to them, making it all the more easier to discriminate. This is a violation of Fourth Amendment rights

According to Bill Peppler, who is the managing partner of Kavaliro, a national staffing and recruiting company, people seeking jobs should assume at all times that the job interviewers will be searching through their public Facebook and Twitter information. Kavaliro does not apply the practice of requiring a password or of forcing the candidate to show their social network profiles to an interviewer, but it does search for any information publicly available on these social networking sites. Peppler even recounted a situation in which a possible candidate was passed over because of several photos found on Facebook in which he was holding alcoholic beverages. This person was middle-aged and had many years of job experience. According to Peppler, it is middle-aged job applicants who have the hardest time with revealing too much incriminating information via Facebook as opposed to younger applicants, who tend to be more Internet savvy and know how to control their privacy settings.

Facebook has spoken out against this new practice and has since amended their Statement of Rights and Responsibility in which it is stated that sharing or soliciting your password is against company policy. A Company spokesperson for Facebook released a statement saying that nobody applying or working for Facebook was or is required to reveal their Facebook profile password or information.