Can employers make you reveal your social media passwords?

There’s legislation that protects your private postings, but it’s not failsafe.

Can employers make you reveal your social media passwords?

The CBC reports 70% of Canadian employers now look through applicants social media accounts during the interview process. That’s a troubling amount of looking at personal info. 

Disturbing as that is, there’s another downright creepy aspect: What if a company could force you to hand over your personal social media passwords? Gasp! You’d have to vacuum all your incriminating dirt first. There’d be no private cyberspace left! 

Here’s some uplifting news – and a few pesky areas – regarding this provocative practice. 


Must job seekers cough up their social media passwords if asked?

Job hunters trembling over their online privacy can breathe a sigh of relief. They’re protected from being forced to disrobe virtually. Luckily, the federal government gave us PIPEDA. It stands for the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. 

This law details how employers have to handle personal data as part of their operations. Subsection 5(3) forbids requiring passwords to social media accounts of job applicants.  

That doesn’t always prevent snoopy companies from asking. Sadly should you refuse to divulge, they might scowl. If they snub your candidacy due to your rebuff, and you somehow find out (don’t bank on it), you could contact the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. They oversee PIPEDA.


Are current employees protected too?

For the most part, existing staff are sheltered by PIPEDA’s umbrella. Employers must have a darn good reason to demand passwords for a worker’s social media accounts. 

The key term is “personal” accounts. The business owned social media accounts used by employees are the company’s property. No real expectation of privacy applies. 

But if an employee posts something on a personal account of theirs that reflects poorly on the company, the employer may have the right to compel password exposure. Plus, if that worker was clueless enough to post while using company-owned equipment, they’ve stuck their neck in a guillotine.


Keeping your social media private

Lots of social media sites let users set privacy levels. Facebook allows you to more or less select who sees what. You can display content to anyone on or off the site, just specific friends, or only yourself. LinkedIn gives some anonymity options. For instance, they permit you to set visibility either to existing contacts, all site members, or no one. 

Does this make you safer than having a brigade of Mounties surrounding you? Not exactly. Any unwanted intruder could send you a request to connect. Accepting unknown invites could leave you somewhat exposed. Think twice too about friending a boss or colleagues unless you have pristine content.


Apply for jobs securely

Guard your highly personal persona against prying eyes. Don’t put compromising details in a resume or online profiles. Keep personal stuff guarded when it’s on social media. 

Your privacy matters to us when job searching. Join Monster for free today and upload your resume, knowing you control who sees it. Recruiters search every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you.