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."