The Facebook Password Conundrum, or Why I Shouldn’t be an Eagle Scout

There's No Place To Go But Up! - Boy Scout LawI have been reading lately about employers asking for job prospects’ (or even employees’) Facebook passwords as a part of the interview process. I’m not going to try to judge the legalities or ethical implications of all this, but I will put myself into the position of someone being asked to do so. What would I do? I want this job, I want to work for this employer, and I get asked this. Would I do it?

Turns out this whole thing reminds me of something that happened when I was 17 and 18 years old. I shouldn’t be an Eagle Scout, but the way things went down, I am.

When an older friend in my Scout Troop went for his Eagle Scout Board of Review (the Troop and local Council representatives interview the prospective Eagle Scout upon completion of merit badges and other requirements), he reported back that they asked him the following question: “since part of the “Scout Law” is “A Scout is Reverent,” should a Scout who doesn’t believe in God- an atheist- be allowed to be an Eagle Scout? His natural answer was to say “of course,” but a well-placed kick under the table from a well-meaning parent got him to change his answer to the BSA-accepted “no.”

I couldn’t believe this. I determined “reverent” to mean not only “respectful of your own beliefs” but also respectful of others.” Apparently some folks thought the Powers that Be in the Boy Scouts of America begged to differ. I swore that if I were asked the same question at my Board of Review, I would answer it my way, even if it meant giving up the Eagle award. I could live with that.

I steeled myself for my review a year or so later, and… they never asked the question. Or any other question I was uncomfortable with. Damn you, Boy Scouts, for robbing me of the chance to take a moral stand. I shouldn’t be an Eagle Scout- by the standard set forth in that question- but I am. Just as well, I would make more nuanced decisions as an adult, weighing my disgust of the BSA’s ban on homosexuals with setting a more practical example for local youth. Everything’s a choice.

But back to the point- what would you do if an employer demanded access to your social networking passwords?

Photo Credit: StarrGazr (thanks Tracy!)


  1. Doug – Nice story and good question. I suppose it would depend on how badly I wanted the particular job. I guess as a stop-gap measure I’d simply create a non-personal Facebook account that is more “professional” in nature and if I really wanted the job and if giving my login/password were something that must be done, then I’d give the non-personal login/password.

    I don’t like the fact that some employers feel that they can ask for this and want to say that I would never do this, in any situation. But of course I doubt that when push came to shove, being human and all, I’d really be able to do that.

    If I really did not want the job then I’d not give it up in either case.

    That’s my initial answer.

  2. Doug – So for starters I never knew you were an Eagle Scout… thinking of ways to work this into our banter.

    I think the FB password question is unethical. If a profile is public you can see everything without the login and don’t see a reason for things. If the profile is blocked to an extent, I think it could be kosher of sorts to open up profile for employers to see to make sure you aren’t a closet fascist or some Buffalo Bill weirdo.

    Giving a password can open up a candidate to questions that they cannot be asked in a traditional interview like are you married, pregnant, religion, kids, etc.

    I think a way around this could be for a company like a LinkedIn, Monster, Careerbuilder, etc. to build up an employee verification application that would scrape for red flags but not step outside the realm of handing over the keys to your online identity.

    @Jeffespo just unlocked the Arrow of Light badge on Foursquare for commenting on Boy Scouts.

  3. If a prospective employer asked for my fb password, I would politely decline and direct them to my LinkedIn page – which is public while my fb is private. Dont think I’d want to work for a company that didnt respect my privacy. But I think if I was applying for a job that required high level security clearance and my choice of music or friends could affect national security…then I might have to think about it some more…before I politely declined.

  4. Jamie

    I’d be okay with giving them my FB login. But only if they did a trade for their personal bank account info.

    Sounds about fair to me.

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