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One of the biggest concerns of social media use has been privacy settings and the protection of a user’s posted content. Facebook has had to repeatedly defend its ever-changing privacy settings and in 2011 even Mark Zuckerberg was the target of one of the social network’s privacy flaws when users flagged his display photo as “inappropriate,” thereby gaining access to his private photos. A lot of privacy concerns centre on unflattering photos uploaded by others, and personal information and postings that can be seen by others who are not within a user’s allowed friends list.

Poor judgment in postings can also later lead to regret if the information isn’t protected by a high privacy setting. A 2012 study by the Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press showed that 11 percent of social media users regret posting their content online. Men are nearly twice as likely to say they regretted posting some of their online content. But at the same time, they are more likely than women to create and maintain an online social media presence.

There’s a new trend in the US that makes it even harder for some social media users to maintain their privacy. Usually when a job seeker gets ready for an interview, they polish their resumes, dust off their best suit and practice their answers to questions such “Describe one of your weaknesses?”

But now they’re needing to prepare to hand over the password to their social media accounts. In Illinois and Maryland, politicians have actually had to draft legislation that would make it illegal for employers and public agencies to gain access to a potential employer’s social network.

In a recent article from The Canadian Press, Maryland resident Robert Collins told his story of being asked by his hiring manager for his Facebook password when he applied to be reinstated as a prison guard. The managers reason? To comb through Collin’s profile page for potential gang connections.

Other employees have said the hiring managers asked them to log into their accounts at the office or to add the manager to their social networks in the midst of the interview process.

Politicians and policy makers have decried the practice as a serious violation of privacy. Several employers have gone on the record to defend their actions, saying the interviewees could have refused to hand over their passwords (but how many potential employees would have gotten the job if they had done so?)

Facebook released a statement last week asking employers not demand the passwords.

“If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password,” wrote Facebook’s chief privacy officer Erin Egan.

In Canada, lawyers said potential employees shouldn’t be worried about having to hand over their passwords during their next interview due to our stronger labour laws which ban companies from asking for personal information. Both provincial and federal laws are more strict in Canada.

Toronto-based labour lawyer Paul Cavaluzzo told The Canadian Press, “In Canada we’ve always respected privacy rights, which means that the employer does not have, and should not have, access to personal information.”

If any Canadian employees come across this practice, career counselors advise they ask for the reason for handing over their password and should realize they are within their rights to refuse to hand over any personal information. They should be aware though, that anything posted which is not guarded by privacy settings may be seen as public information by the employers.