Job Applicant Required to Give Facebook Login: ACLU

By Tim Persinko and Chris Gordon
|  Tuesday, Feb 22, 2011  |  Updated 9:59 PM EDT
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A <a title=Maryland man said he was forced to give his employer full access to his Facebook page while re-certifying for his job." />

A Maryland man said he was forced to give his employer full access to his Facebook page while re-certifying for his job.

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For many Facebook users, the last person they would give their Facebook username and password to is their boss.

But Robert Collins, 29, said that in a background investigation for a position with the Maryland Department of Corrections, that was exactly what he was required to do.

"Here I am a U.S. citizen that hasn't broken any laws, committed any crimes," said Collins in a YouTube video, taped by the ACLU,  "and a prospective, or in my case, an employer, looking at my personal communications, my personal posts, my personal pictures."

The corrections officer said he was told this was a department policy.

A spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services said that's not correct. 

"We don't require anyone to give us a password," the department told NBC4.  "The ACLU drastically misrepresented this." 

Collins said he has worked for the state of Maryland since 2004, and with the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services since 2007.  He said that following the death of his mother, he took a leave of absence.  When he applied to be reinstated with the department in 2010, he said he was required to go through a background investigation.

During an interview for that investigation, Collins said he was asked by the interviewer if he used social media.  Then, he said, the interviewer asked him to supply his username and password.  According to Collins, the interviewer wanted to make sure that he was not involved in illegal activity, like having an affiliation with a gang.  He said that he was told this kind of social media search was department policy.

"There is a fine line between making sure that officers are not involved in illicit activity," he said, "and invading someone's privacy."

The Department of Public Safety and Corrections released a statement to News4 on Tuesday morning: 

"DPSCS reserves the right to inquire about a possible candidate's Facebook account during the hiring or re-certification process. However, it does not require/demand it as stated in the ACLU release. A candidate's refusal is not grounds for disqualification."

The American Civil Liberty Union has said that absent any suspicion of Collins' involvement in illegal activity, the department's request for his social media login information was illegal.

The legal advocacy organization has sent a letter to the state of Maryland requesting it to discontinue this screening policy, citing Collins' case.

"Looking at my personally identifiable information, where my religious beliefs, my political beliefs, my sexuality, all of these things are possibly disclosed on this page," Collins said.  "It's an absolute and total invasion, and over reach, and over-step on their part."

Late on Tuesday, the DPSCS contacted NBC4 again, and said that the policy of inquiring about Facebook accounts during the hiring process would be suspended for 45 days, for further review.

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