The Maryland DoC: Boneheads or Brilliant?


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If you’ve been on Facebook in the last few days, you’ve probably heard a report about the Maryland Department of Correction’s controversial policy of asking job applicants to submit their Facebook passwords and log-in info to conduct background checks. This was prompted by the re-hire of a corrections officer who was told he needed to submit this information to be reinstated after returning from a personal leave. He contacted the ACLU, who is now conducting an inquiry.

What is the Maryland COD thinking? That they should be able to log on to people’s personal accounts AS THOSE PEOPLE, just to see what they’re up to? And access private messages and info of friends? Social Media Today offers this thoughtful analysis. My question: Why not just request a friend confirmation from applicants to see their profiles? If the request is denied, infer what you will from that.

Amazingly, the officer gave them his information, albeit not without protest. How could anyone be naïve enough to do that?

Predictably, there has been a backlash to this and other efforts seen as egregious intrusions of privacy. Case law on the issue is sparse, and if this policy is duplicated, it will face court challenges, and legal precedent will be set. As I see it, there is no middle ground here: Being asked to surrender personal login information for Facebook or anything else, as a precondition of employment, is 100% wrong. Period.

And then it hit me. Either the Maryland DOC consists of ignorant boneheads, or they’re brilliant.

The pdf from the ACLU to the Maryland DOC looks official enough. Still, I can’t help but wonder: Have we all been snookered? Was this actually a process of elimination test to weed out applicants? As in: If you are dumb enough to actually comply with such a request, we sure don’t want you working for us.

I’ll tell you this: I wouldn’t want someone that “compliant” working for me. Would you?

Update 2/22, 5:11 PM: The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has suspended the practice of asking for Facebook login information for 45 days, according to an email they sent to The Atlantic. See full story on the development.

Ok, so maybe my “theory” is most likely wrong. But you know what?  I think I’d respect the Maryland DOC a whole lot more if I was right.

Liz DeLoach is a Social Media Consultant, Les Mills Fitness Trainer, wife and mom of two teens (help!) in Charleston, SC. Follow her on Twitter @lizdeloach. And, be sure to stop by her page at Social Moms.

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