Thursday, April 4, 2013

The results are in: social media password survey


Last month, in response to the introduction of social media password legislation in the Ohio Senate, I posed a survey to gauge whether this is a problem that needs to be fixed, or an illusion created by the media.

Thanks to the hundreds who responded, I am happy to share my (very unscientific) findings, some of which are expected and some of which are surprising.

First, the not surprising. Employers are not engaging in this practice:

Has your company ever asked a job applicant or employee to provide the login or password to a social media or other online account?

  • No: 90%
  • Yes, an employee: 5%
  • Yes, an applicant: 3%
  • Yes, both: 1%

Have you ever been asked by an employer to provide the login or password to a social media or other online account?

  • No: 95%
  • Yes: 5%

Has your company ever denied employment, or fired an employee, because an individual refused to disclose the login or password of a social media or other online site?

  • No: 98%
  • Yes: 2%

It is fair to conclude that this supposed practice is not much more than an answer in search of a problem.

Nevertheless, despite the low incidence of these practices occurring, more than one-third of you still think we need this legislative answer to prohibit employers from requiring the disclosure of passwords and logins.

Do you believe that we need legislation to prohibit employers from asking or requiring individuals to disclose login or password information of social media and other websites?

  • No: 64%
  • Yes: 36%

How do I explain this apparent incongruence? Perhaps it’s the strong feelings that we hold about personal privacy, despite the very un-private nature of social media.

I believe that when one posts something online, that person forsakes any privacy he or she otherwise might have enjoyed in that communication. The majority of you, however, disagree:

Do you believe that employers have a legitimate interest in viewing social media accounts of job applicants before hiring?

  • No: 71%
  • Yes: 29%

Do you believe that employers have a legitimate interest in viewing social media accounts of employees during the term of their employment?

  • No: 62%
  • Yes: 38%

Do you believe that employees should have an expectation of privacy in what they post in their personal social media accounts?

  • No: 45%
  • Yes: 55%

As these survey results poignantly illustrate, there exists a tangible tension between the open nature of communications on social networks and personal privacy. It is going to be fascinating to watch these issues evolve over the coming years as the wall that separates the public and private continues to erode on social networks.

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