Maryland Agency Stops Asking Interviewees for Facebook Login

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Days after the American Civil Liberties Union went public with the story of a Maryland corrections officer who was asked for his Facebook login information during a job interview, the state's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) has suspended that practice.

We reported on the story over the weekend and since then it's been recommended more than 6,000 times on Facebook. Most readers have responded with dismay.

Today, the DPSCS responded. In an e-mail to The Atlantic, the department's director of communications Rick Binetti wrote that he thought the ACLU letter and press release had created "misperceptions" about the organization's policy.

Binetti said that it was not policy to "demand any personal social media information from applicants." However, he did admit that the organization does ask for that information during interviews. Here's how he described what was supposed to happen:

During the initial interview, or recertification processes, DPSCS does not require correctional officer applicants to provide any information related to social media. An applicant is asked if they are active users of social media. If so, the Department only asks if an applicant would provide this information. If any information is provided by an applicant, it is done so voluntarily. If an applicant does not provide this information, it is not held against them and the interview process moves forward.

While there is a difference between requiring your Facebook credentials and merely "asking" for them, imagine that you're sitting in a job interview and really need to get or keep that job. Would a request put forth under those conditions be read as something you could really say no to?

In either case, "in light of these concerns raised by the ACLU and because this is a newly emerging area in the law," the department has suspended the practice of asking for social media information for 45 days. During that time, the procedure will be reviewed "to make sure it is being used consistently and appropriately."

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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