Give me your Facebook password, or you’re fired.

What would you do if your employer said that to you? Give up the goods? Refuse to allow the breach of privacy and hope s/he was bluffing? Lean in (either) direction and quickly hire an attorney?

What if a potential employer demanded your Facebook credentials as a precondition for getting hired?

In the social networking era, it’s a tricky question, and one that can be shut down by simply leaving your social network profiles open to exploration by whomever wishes to see them.

And now, let’s shut down the debate.

Forget moral implications and indignant posturing. Just leave that “I shouldn’t have to . . . !” stuff out of the conversation. The issues here are how open your are with your Facebook (Google+, LinkedIn, whatever) profiles—and what you put in them—plus some arcane legal questions.

I say all the time that you probably want to be careful about what you put “out there”. For all of our railing about it, privacy isn’t a universal, and is a relatively new concept anyway, complicated by the sea of data we now swim in.

That pretty much addresses “part one”; watch what you say, and everything becomes moot. You boss wants to see your Facebook profile? Who cares?

But the password angle changes things. As some US Senators are pointing out, being asked for your Facebook password doesn’t feel very much different than being asked for a set of your house keys.

Again, though, that’s straying into the moral part of this. Let’s concentrate on the legal stuff (disclaimer: I am not an attorney).

There are laws in place, at least here in the USA, that limit what an employer or prospective employer is allowed to do, say, or ask for. I came down on Gina Trapani for thinking she could alter the equal pay landscape better than law already had, and have applauded  the US Supreme Court for talking sense about employer-owned telephones and computers. And make no mistake; these are common sense interpretations of similar, existing laws.

And isn’t this entire conversation about common sense?

Common sense is what made me delete a couple of family videos from the Internet. It made me sad, and as I told you at the time it would have been an ineffective gesture had I streamed the videos in different ways or places, but it was simple; common sense issues tend to be simple until we complicate them.

As a businessperson, I usually find myself siding with management over labor issues, so let the lesson here be simple: don’t do something as stupid as ask your employees for their Facebook passwords. Just . . . don’t . . . do . . . it.

But remember that it really is all about common sense. You could delete your history in response to Google changing privacy policies, but the results you’d be chasing are pointless. You can run, but you can’t hide.

In short, since what people do is the new SEO, embrace the change. Just stay on the legal side.

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