Every now and again we are asked about whether or not an employer is entitled to demand passwords from an employee in respect of their personal social media accounts.
As many of you will have read in the media, some overseas employers are demanding that employees (and prospective employees) disclose their social media passwords to their employers. This is certainly the case in the United States. In fact, a recent attempt to ban employers in the United States from engaging in this very practice has been blocked by Congress.
It is very important to note that the standpoint of the United States is of no consequence to us here in Australia. There are no Australian laws enacted to govern these practices.
Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, made the following statement in March 2012:
“I’m not aware of this practice occurring in Australia. However, I am very concerned by overseas reports of employers demanding social networking passwords. Requests of this kind are extremely privacy invasive, and I would suggest, very difficult to justify. At this stage, we have not received any complaints about this issue but I would strongly advise employers against making such demands. Social media profiles have privacy controls for a reason and generally, if a person wishes to keep their online interactions private they should be able to do so. Again, I remind people to be thoughtful about what they are posting online and limit the amount of personal information they are sharing.”
We also wish to remind everyone to be cautious with passwords, take care in what you post online and do not feel in any way obligated to disclose passwords to an employer as a condition of acquiring or keeping a job.