Advisory Opinion: Requiring Logins, Passwords Violates NACE Principles for Ethical Professional Practice

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This advisory opinion, which draws on Principles 1, 2, and 4 of the NACE Principles for Ethical Professional Practice, addresses the ethics of requiring a candidate to provide login/password information to personal social network accounts and offers guidance to career centers in working with employers and students on this issue.

Professional Perspectives

Employers should not require or request that students/job candidates provide login/password information to their personal social network accounts as a condition of employment or as a condition to be considered for employment. NACE’s position is that the practice violates ethical standards, specifically:

  • Principle 1: Practice reasonable, responsible, and transparent behavior.
  • Principle 2: Act without bias.
  • Principle 4: Comply with laws.

NACE’s Principles for Ethical Professional Practice provide for a recruitment process that is consistent with EEO and privacy laws and a process in which job applicants are respected and free from undue pressure.

In addition to the ethical considerations, there are legal issues: A significant number of states have laws that specifically prohibit employers from requesting or requiring such information from applicants. Such laws further generally prohibit employers from requiring applicants to open social media pages in front of employers or to change their privacy settings from “private” to “public.” Career center staff should check the laws within their own state for clarification.

Suggested Steps When Working With Employers

Should a career center have concerns with a specific employer requesting access to a student’s/job candidate’s personal social media accounts, the center should contact the organization to discuss its hiring practices. The center should inform the organization’s representatives that, based on NACE’s advisory opinion, the career center does not condone the practice of requiring or requesting that students/job candidates provide employers login/password information to their personal social network accounts.

Additionally, career centers should consider addressing this in their own recruitment policies.

Suggested Steps When Coaching Students

College career services professionals should counsel students that employers ethically should not and, in many states, do not have the legal right to require them to provide their login/password information for their social network accounts during the employment recruiting process.

Additionally, career center professionals should inform students that social media is a public forum and that employers may view candidates’ social media profiles and activity. Career services professionals should encourage students to adjust their privacy settings. Students’ public profiles should only include content that is consistent with their professional brand—content that they want employers to see.

Related Resources:

Advisory Opinion: Supporting Appropriate Recruitment and Employment Practices: Guidelines for Career Center Staff

Reviewed and revised by the 2022-23 Principles for Ethical Professional Practice Committee.

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