Hopefully by now, most people realize that privacy is just an illusion on Facebook. However, just how far should employers go when it comes to viewing your Facebook page? Should they ask you to give them your password before hiring you? There are now 12 states which say neither employers, nor prospective employers can do this.

Passing laws about Facebook passwords

USA Today reports (via CNBC) that this week Oregon became the 12th state to ban employers from asking that workers hand over their username and password for their social media accounts. However, there are still plenty of states where this practice is perfect legal, and apparently, some universities and colleges are also prying into their students’ personal lives via their Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) accounts.

In addition to the 12 states which have officially barred employers and schools from asking workers and students to hand over their Facebook passwords, 25 other states have considered passing laws like those which passed in the other states.

Would you hand over your Facebook password?

Those who argue against employers and schools being able to access Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) accounts say it not only invades the personal lives of those whose accounts are being checked, but it also risks the privacy of the users’ Facebook friends. Some compare employers accessing Facebook accounts to them asking for total access to workers’ homes and then going through their mail, peeking in their drawers and even sitting in on conversations inside the home.

Employers and universities which do try to pry into workers’ and students’ Facebook accounts say it is just a matter of making sure that they have fully vetted the person in question. They also emphasize that handing over the social networking password is entirely optional and that not handing it over does not automatically disqualify the applicant from getting a job with them.

Many universities reportedly require that student athletes friend a coach on their Facebook page so that the coach can monitor their activities on the social network. Others require that student athletes install different types of social media monitoring software, like UDiligence or Varsity Monitor.

Concerns about Facebook laws remain

One of the concerns with passing laws about monitoring Facebook pages is that lawmakers do not want to keep certain types of employers from being able to do what they need to do. For example, the Virginia State Police ask to check Facebook accounts of prospective employees as part of the vetting process. They do this because they have high standards for individuals who will be charged with upholding the law.

Another example is financial institutions, which must be able to monitor their employees for insider trading. A third example is schools investigating allegations of cyber-bullying. Lawmakers say the key is balance in allowing these sorts of issues to be investigated without trotting all over people’s privacy.

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