Would you give potential employers your Facebook password?

As part of the hiring process, some job applicants are being asked by some prospective employers to submit their usernames and passwords so that the employers can access their Facebook accounts to see what the applicants have posted online, reports the Associated Press.

It has become very common, as part of the candidate vetting process, for employers to search for Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts and other social media sites to get a peek at what behavior people display.

So now, not only do employers believe they have a right to know how you handle your credit (because many also check how you handle your personal finances), they feel justified in prying to see what you say and do with your friends?

People ought to be outraged. Employers have lost their minds -- and their sense of what privacy means.

I don’t generally post private information on any of my social media sites. Nothing about the Internet says private to me. Still, making job hunters reveal their most intimate pictures and conversations to get a job is just wrong, and should be illegal.

“It’s akin to requiring someone’s house keys,” Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor told AP. He called such a request “an egregious privacy violation.”

In Virginia,candidates for state trooper positions are required to sign on to their Facebook accounts or any other social medium they use during the interview process, BusinessWeek reported.

In an interview with BusinessWeek, Corinne Geller, spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, said this: “You sign a waiver, then there’s a laptop and you go to these sites and your interviewer reviews your information. It’s a virtual character check as much as the rest of the process is a physical background check.”

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, team athletes are required to accept a coach or administrative official as a friend on their Facebook accounts so the official can monitor their pages.

Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut are urging Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the practice, which they believe is illegal and unfair, AP reported recently.

Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, said in a recent blog post, “We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”

But Facebook only has itself to blame for this mess, says Chunka Mui, a contributor to Forbes.com.

“The ease of access and use of sensitive personal information is due to Facebook’s past insensitivity about user privacy, as evidenced by its repeated expansion of what information is public by default,” Mui writes.

How do you feel about this?

This week’s Color of Money question: What do you think of being required to give up your Facebook username and password to a prospective employer? Would you do it? Have you done it? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “Facebook” in the subject line. Be sure to include your full name, city and state.

Spending Your Tax Refund

Kiplinger’s Kimberly Lankford has 10 recommendations for how to spend (or save) your tax refund.

Here are just a few:

-- Build an emergency fund. If you don’t have an emergency fund, here’s your chance to start one. Lankford suggests keeping the money easily accessible in a money market or savings account that adds interest.

-- Contribute a portion on your refund to your retirement account. If you are under 50, you can contribute up to $5,000 to an IRA in 2012. If you are over 50, you can contribute up to $6,000.

-- Create or contribute more to a child’s college fund. The more you save for your kids’ college expenses, the less debt they and you take on. So consider opening up or boosting money into a 529 savings account. Go to www.savingforcollege.com for more information.

Let’s Talk Live Next Week

Join me on Thursday, April 5, at 1 p.m. for my live online text chat. My guest will be David Wolman, author of “The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers – and the Coming Cashless Society.”

Wolman’s book is this month’s Color of Money Book Club pick.

Responses to “Celebrity Cash”

Celebrity television chef Mario Batali was recently sued by his wait staff for allegedly cheating them out of tips and failing to pay them overtime or minimum wage, The Washington Post’s Cara Kelly reported.

The tip lawsuit prompted a discussion between The Chow.com’s John Birdsall and Joyce Slaton on whether it should be mandatory for wait staff to share their tips with other employees.

The debate inspired last week’s Color of Money Question: “Do you like tipping in restaurants? And, if not, would you be willing to pay higher food prices to eliminate the tip system?”

“I believe in the tipping system in that I think it gives customers some control over the service they get; and wait staff to put their best foot forward even on a bad day,” wrote Laura Lagerstedt of Washington. “However some people do tip regardless of whether the server was providing good customer service or not. I had one waiter on my birthday tell my mom, ‘I don’t have time for this’ in frustration as she politely asked him if he could take our picture because it was her daughter’s birthday. She tipped him anyway, with the support of my husband, even though I argued he hadn’t earned it.”

(Note: I think the writer’s husband and her mother were right to tip. Taking the photo would have been good customer service, but that wasn’t part of the server’s job description. So if the he still gave good food service, he should have been tipped.)

Michele Mitsumori of Boston would pay higher food prices to eliminate the tip system.

“Eliminating tipping would mean that there is more transparency in the system: what you see on the menu is the actual cost of the food. Also, often when it comes to adding the tip when you charge, the tax is included in the final amount, so you are being encouraged to determine your tip on a higher amount. It is also a pain to have to do the extra step of math, especially if you are splitting the bill.”

(Note: If you have a smartphone, look for tip calculator apps. I’ve found a good tip calculator on iTunes. It divides the bill by the number of people paying and allows for various tip percentages.)

“I dislike tipping from the standpoint that service is often inconsistent but my wife wants to almost always over tip,” said Ron Ball of Vienna. “I prefer the way it is done in Germany and other European countries. The gratuity is included in the bill and no tip is required unless you want to add something extra and then it is recommended to round up to the nearest Euro.”

Bill Ahern of Alexandria said he was recently asked to tip for a buffet.

“I recently got back from Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando. There’s a pricy hotel/restaurant set in the middle of their safari park, with very cool African decor. Wonderful food was served at a buffet, and a server took drink orders. When she brought the bill, the tip line had printed right next to it two suggested amounts: 18 percent and 20 percent, each calculated against what we had spent. Now, honestly, I think it’s cheeky to suggest tip levels at all for a party of three, but to suggest those tip levels at a buffet restaurant? I sure hope it was tipped out. If not, it’s an outrage.”

(Note: Whenever my family and I eat buffet style, we leave a few dollars for the person who may bring us drink. To suggest patrons should tip as if they received full service may not qualify as an outrage, but it certainly is unreasonable.)

Spend Well, Live Rich

I hope you have been able to check out my new PBS pledge special, “Spend Well, Live Rich.”

The special is airing on various PBS-affiliated stations. Here’s a link for a video preview of the special.

Watch for the program in your local area.

Tia Lewis contributed to this e-letter.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to singletarym@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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