Social Media Intrusions Violate Employee Privacy

John Commins, March 26, 2012

For years now employers have incrementally imposed themselves into the private lives and behaviors of employees.

The motives are largely around money. Labor is the single largest expense for many industries. It costs a lot of money to recruit, hire, train, insure, and replace a worker. And increasingly, the beyond-the-walls personal conduct of workers, such as posting patient pictures and information on social media sites, is becoming more of an issue because employers can be held liable.

It's been a gray area. For example, a growing number of companies, including healthcare organizations, refuse to hire people who use tobacco, a legal product. This has been justified in the name of productivity, health insurance costs, and patient safety. Job candidates are tested for traces of nicotine in their urine to prove their innocence.

When do the legitimate concerns of employers verifying the claims of job applicants and employees crash against the privacy wall of those same people?

That question was answered recently when the Associated Press reported that job applicants at some companies were being asked by potential employers to provide passwords to their accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. For anyone looking for a bright line of demarcation in the privacy rights debate, this is it.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.


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