For law enforcement applicants, Facebook should be part of the interview process
Nearly a year ago, Justin Bassett was asked for his Facebook username and password during a job interview, provoking an outrage at the violation of privacy.
California and Illinois have since enacted laws against this practice, while many other states are in the process of joining them.
However, the state of Virginia has not any such passed a law, possibly because of the Virgina State Police’s hiring practices.
VSP currently uses a process where “the applicant investigator is asked … to log on to those sites for the background investigator to review. VSP does not ask for the applicant’s passwords.” This is to guard against the hiring of individuals who have made prejudiced or bigoted remarks on their social media accounts.
VSP’s official statement regarding its hiring process reads that the social media component became a part of the background investigation on Jan. 1, 2012, and VSP says that no one has ever refused to show their social media accounts to investigators.
When filling positions involving public safety, there is a credible motive for this practice.
In 2010, Robert Collins was returning to his position as a security guard at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. During a reinstatement interview, he, too, was asked for his username and password for a social media site. The stated purpose was to ensure that Collins had no gang affiliations.
Another uproar followed and the department changed to methods similar to those used by VSP.
Responding to the modification, Collins said, “To me, that’s still invasive. I can appreciate the desire to learn more about the applicant, but it’s still a violation of people’s personal privacy.”
Interviewers are not allowed to ask questions regarding applicants’ sexuality or faith, but it would be easy to find this information in the screening process if interviewers access an applicant’s social media accounts, which could affect the interviewer’s decision.
However, the methods of the VSP or the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services are both necessary and reasonable. The interviewers do not know your password, so they cannot log back on after the interview process is over. And frankly, if you wouldn’t want your employer to see something on your social media accounts, you shouldn’t post it publicly in the first place.
We can all go through the hassle of showing our accounts to an interviewer if it prevents biased or dangerous individuals from being hired for a job that requires them to protect and serve. This method makes background investigations all the more thorough because social media sites reflect our daily lives and who we are as people. Reviewing these sites will ensure the safety of civilians.
A poll conducted by the New York Times indicated that 80 percent of black New York residents believe that the police department “favors whites over blacks,” and 48 percent of white residents agree. With the recent events involving Christopher Dorner, the former Los Angeles Police Department officer responsible for a series of attacks on police officers and their families, it has become clear that who we allow to fill these positions is a matter of the greatest importance.
The last thing we want is for dangerous or prejudiced individuals to be hired because we’re paranoid about someone sifting through our Facebook wall for a couple of minutes.
— Kimberlie Wang is a physiology freshman. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on twitter via @WildcatOpinions