The rapidly growing and increasingly disturbing trend of employers asking prospective or even current employees to hand over their Facebook log-in credentials may have reached its apex – it’s now the center of a lawsuit. A teacher’s aide at an elementary school in Michigan has fought back against the school’s requirement that she let administrators access every nook and cranny of her Facebook account.
At first glance, it doesn’t look as though Kimberly Hester has a squeaky clean social networking presence and just wants to stand up for the principle of what’s right and what’s wrong, and represent the value of privacy. But then again, is it really up to her employer to make that call? The story goes that Hester posted a picture of someone with her pants around her ankles. That someone happened to be a coworker at Cassopolis, MI’s Frank Squires Elementary School. A parent, whom Hester trusted enough to friend on Facebook, contacted school authorities about the picture.
As a means of their investigation, officials told Hester she needed to provide her Facebook log-in credentials. She refused, and the school placed her on administrative leave. She received a letter stating that since she would not provide her account info, “We will assume the worst and act accordingly.” Now, she’s suing the school. Since this practice came to light over the last couple months, questions have been raised over whether or not an employer making such a demand violated either the Store Communications Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Hester’s case, which goes into arbitration in May, also has a nice ally on its side – Facebook has publicly opposed this practice in a very vocal way.