Does your employer need your Facebook password?


Think about your boss.

Now imagine your boss, coffee in hand, browsing languidly through your Facebook messages, pausing on a few particularly spicy ones. Copying a few passages into a Word document. Moving on to flip through your vacation snapshots, saving a few to his computer to revisit later.

Creeped out yet?

The Password Protection Act of 2013 was introduced last week. This legislation would make it illegal for an employer to demand the passwords to your social media accounts.

I find it truly disturbing that a specific piece of legislation has to be introduced in order to make this the law. I can’t imagine how the conversation would go if someone asked me for my Facebook password, but I’d be willing to bet it wouldn’t be pleasant or edifying.

Employers have a lot of power over their workers, especially in a poor economy. If the threat of being fired is hanging over you and you have a family to feed and bills to pay, you’ll go pretty far to mollify your employer.

“Work to live” is a philosophy which is all very well on a personal level. But I think there’s a deeper problem at the root of our work culture — a problem that most of us can’t fix by ourselves.

We’re in danger sometimes of falling back into a feudalistic paradigm. It’s fine to respect our employers, to give them a fair days work and even to give them loyalty — within reason. When we start bringing them home with us, giving them power far exceeding the financial return they give us, then we’re making a mistake.

I’ve met far too many people who think of their employer in bizarrely contradictory ways: ceding them the moral authority and power of a medieval chieftain whilst resenting and cheating them when they can get away with it.

Shouldn’t the employer-employee relationship be based on mutual respect?