Kara Jensen, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s Fall 2013 Mass Communication Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the following essay in response to the prompt: “When you are 20 years old you attend a party where alcohol is served. You do not drink any alcohol but are photographed holding a red plastic cup filled with diet coke. A friend takes your picture and posts it on his Facebook page. The following summer you are applying for a job and your future employer asks to see your Facebook page. Should you be required to give them access? What should you do?”
If a future employer asked to see my Facebook page, in no way should I be required to oblige their request. While I understand their reasons for asking, I think that it is highly intrusive and violates privacy of my personal life.
Before social media became what it is today, potential employers did not ask to see letter to friends, photo albums, or other things of that nature during the interview process. While the medium has changed, the principle behind it should remain the same: one’s personal life should remain personal.
In response to an employer requesting access to my Facebook profile, I would likely respond in one of two ways. One option would be to politely request that my personal life remain private, but recommend my LinkedIn profile as an excellent depiction of my character, passions, and professional experience. Another option would be to ask if granting them access is necessary in moving forward with the interview, and evaluate my decision to continue or not based on their answer.
That being said, it would be ignorant to believe that my personal social media would not affect me in any way. In fact, many employers have software to access social media profiles without passwords, even when se to private. Because of this, it would be in my best interest to be mindful of my profile and how it reflects upon me. If there was a tagged picture of my holding a red cup, almost anyone would assume it was alcohol. I may know that the red cup was filled with Diet Coke, but given the party setting my case would not be very convincing. To prevent any misunderstandings, I would un-tag myself from all questionable photos, and would also ask my friend to remove them from Facebook completely. Moreover, it is important to realize that even with privacy settings, you are still granting your selected friends access to your profile – and you never know who they could potentially share your profile with.
When it comes down to it, I do believe that we have the right to refuse employers access to our online profiles, but should use social media responsibly regardless.
Kara Jensen is a senior at Pepperdine University majoring in Public Relations.
Jon Pfeiffer is an experienced entertainment and copyright trial attorney practicing in Santa Monica. Jon is also an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California where he teaches Media Law. COM 570 covers First Amendment issues as well as copyright, defamation and privacy.