Cyberspace should be protected by laws, too

Staff Writer
Woodford Times

If a potential employer asked in a job interview if he could look through your wallet, would you let him?

People keep a lot of confidential information in their wallets, so a request like this would create some distress. You don’t want to tank the interview, but you also don’t want to hand some stranger full access to your private life.

This is what came to mind a few weeks ago when I ran across a story about how employers are asking job candidates for their Facebook usernames and passwords. I know that companies conduct research online about potential employees, but this seems to be pushing the envelope much further.

My first instinct would be to say, “No, I won’t give you that kind of access.” There are specific questions companies are prohibited from asking job candidates (age, marital status, religion, political views), and these items may well be discovered if an employer roams around someone’s Facebook account.

And yet, more employers are using these websites to weed out poor prospects from more acceptable candidates. Lori Andrews, a professor at Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Kent College of Law said that 75 percent of companies require their human resource departments to review sites like Facebook and Twitter before they hire individuals.

Andrews is the author of “I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy.” She gave a presentation on this growing intrusion last week at IIT’s Rice Campus in Wheaton, Ill.

Her main concern is that our digital identities are beginning to overshadow our real selves. The perception that people make of us from information they obtain online has become more influential in the decisions they make. This adversely impacts how we get jobs, what colleges will accept us and even how we are treated by the legal system.

Andrews is advocating a Social Network Constitution, and it’s an idea worth considering. There are laws that protect our privacy in the real world; why should we abdicate these rights in cyberspace?

Read more information at loriandrews.com and socialnetworkconstitution.com. It’s time to let corporate America know that our wallets belong to us, not them.

Jerry Moore is the opinions editor for Suburban Life Publications. Contact him at (630) 368-8930 or jmoore@mysuburbanlife.com.