Facebook users ‘should never have to share’ information.’

In the wake of controversy over the intrusive practice of employers – Facebook is warning employers not to demand passwords as part of job interviews.

Facebook’s chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, stepped in on Friday in a post which said, ‘If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password.’

The social networking company says that it would even consider suing firms that use the practice. It also warns firms could open themselves up to legal challenges from job candidates.

‘We have worked really hard at Facebook to give you the tools to control who sees your information,’ says Egan.

‘That’s why we’ve made it a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password.’

Job applicants at the Maryland Department of Corrections were asked to allow the interviewer to watch as the applicant logged into Facebook and clicked through photos, messages, and wall posts that were behind the privacy wall.

In a post on Friday, Facebook’s chief privacy officer cautions that if an employer discovers that a job applicant is a member of a protected group, the employer may open itself up to claims of discrimination if it doesn’t hire that person.

The practice is already highly controversial.

Critics are crying foul, like the American Civil Liberties Union who says that the practice is a clear violation of personal privacy.

They say that while ‘shoulder surfing’, as the practice is called, may technically be voluntary, the vast majority of applicants feel obligated to open up their lives to their employers or risk losing the job.

An extreme case was that of Robert Collins, who had been working for the Department for years before they asked him to give his email and Facebook logins.

‘Here I am, a us citizen who hasn’t broken any laws, who hasn’t committed any crimes, and here I am having a prospective- well, not prospective in my case- an employer, looking at my personal communications, my personal posts, my personal identifiable information,’ he said in a video produced by the ACLU.

Others strongly request that the candidate opens their pages in front of them and allow their would-be bosses to scroll through their private information during the interview.

‘It’s an absolute and total invasion and total overreach on their part,’ Mr Collins said.

Following his case, the Department suspended the policy for 45 days before compromising on ‘shoulder surfing’ as an alternative.

While the prospect of revealing the inner workings of your social life seems daunting, it has only lead to serious consequences in a few cases: of the 2,689 applicants that the Maryland Department of Corrections examined, only seven were denied the position based on items interviewers discovered behind privacy walls.

In addition to creating an awkward situation for potential employers, it also forces them to break Facebook policy.

‘You will not share your password … let anyone else access your account or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account,’ the site’s policy stipulates.

Facebook spokesman Frederic Wolens spoke with MSNBC and while he would not comment on the specific case of the Maryland Department of Corrections, he speculated that the practice was against the site’s terms of service.

‘Under our terms, only the holder of the email address and password is considered the Facebook account owner. We also prohibit anyone from soliciting the login information or accessing an account belonging to someone else,’ he told the news site.

In an effort to avoid this situation, the University of North Carolina has instated a policy that forces student athletes to ‘friend’ at least one of their coaches so that they can constantly monitor what the students put online.

That school’s worries come from experience, as former football player Marvin Austin posted about making very expensive purchases while still a student. The post prompted an investigation by the National Collegiate Athletics Association, and, in turn, the school’s privacy policy.

Via Daily Mail