"It's a gross intrusion upon the privacy rights of job applicants and employees," says Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy with San Diego, CA-based Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
"People using social networking sites have become accustomed to the concept of granularity, that is the idea that they can choose who will see the information they can post. That is why there are public and private portions of profiles and the ability to restrict which friends see which portions of various posting. Individuals have come to have that expectation that they can control what they post. What you are seeing here is a runaround that defeats the whole purpose of the granularity that social networks are providing to their users," he says.
So far, reports have been anecdotal. It's not clear how widespread a problem this has become. Chris Conley, a technology and civil liberties policy attorney with American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, says action needs to be taken to ensure the practice does not become more prevalent.
"Let's hope this does not become a trend and we in the ACLU will be working with various alternatives to make sure that people don't have to reveal their private lives as a condition of being even considered for a job," he says. "We don't think information should be any more or less private simply because it is placed online. Letters you have in a shoe box at home or the emails on your laptop have an expectation of privacy and legal protection. No one would dream of having access to those. It should be the same for Facebook."
There is much that is wrong with demanding access to social media accounts.