Should You Give Your Passwords to Your Boss?


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Image by: The Globe and Mail
Online vetting of candidates and employees requires diligence, yes, but not a flagrant disregard for privacy.

The BC NDP want to avoid a social media scandal like the one caused, in 2009, by Ray Lam's infamous Facebook photo. But is demanding the candidates' passwords the right way to do it?

Should you give your passwords to your boss? No.

Well, that ends this conversation. But first, let me flesh out this idea in context of some current B.C. political events.

This week, the BC NDP asked the candidates running in the April leadership race to turn over all their social media passwords so that the party can vet the candidates for embarrassing photos, posts, etc. Back in the 2009 B.C. election, NDP candidate Ray Lam had to withdraw from the race after suggestive photos on his Facebook account were made public. The NDP is trying to prevent a similar scandal in the April 2011 leadership race.

Forget for a moment that such a request may contravene B.C. privacy laws, to say nothing of the Twitter Terms of Service. Collecting passwords does not address the real concern. Rather, the request highlights the NDP's struggle to get its head around new media.

I certainly agree that becoming a candidate for a party is a choice, even a privilege. As such, certain vetting – criminal records, banking, taxes, group affiliations, etc. – is required. But a financial check does not include giving up the PIN numbers for your bank cards.

So, how should political parties and other such groups vet/review someone’s social media presence?

Social Media Vetting in Six Steps

1. Have the person disclose all social networks/online worlds where they interact or have interacted. Of course you should include the popular ones like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. But don’t neglect the older social networks they may have forgotten, like Friendster; Classmates; dating sites (Plenty of Fish,, eHarmony); and interactive worlds (Second Life, Playstation Network). Even the top 10 bulletin boards where they chat, troll, or create flame wars are worth investigating.

2. Have the person grant you access as a “friend,” “follower,” or “user,” at the highest public settings possible on each of their networks. This will allow you to see everything that the public can see.

3. Now actually view, search, listen, and read all the online content you can see.

4. Google. Yes, Google as a verb. This will give you some basic access to old content on the person you are researching.

5. List all the offending information, photos, videos, etc., and ask the individual to remove them.

6. If the individual in question will not remove the content, then decide if the candidacy will continue.

So simple. I wonder what sort of heart attack I would give to a vetting committee? Again, must research.

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