Man Refuses To Give Facebook Password For Background Check

7:05 PM, Feb 23, 2011   |    comments
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BALTIMORE, Md. (WUSA) -- Robert Collins tells 9NEWS NOW he was asked to give up his Facebook account password and information for a background check to return to work as a corrections officer in Maryland. Now, he and the ACLU have managed to get the Maryland Department of Public Safety to suspend that practice, at least for now. That policy has been pulled for the next 45 days as it goes under review.

Robert Collins began his work as a corrections officer at the Patuxent Institution in 2007. He took a leave of absence in April 2010 and then decided he wanted his old job back later that year.

According to Collins, the re-certification process included a 2010 November interview where an investigator asked for, among other things some private information regarding his use of social media.

"He began to ask me which networks I had the social media accounts on. Then he began to request user name and password information, personal log in information for this stuff," stated Collins. 

According to Collins, applicants applying for corrections officers jobs in the state of Maryland already go through an in-depth background check to screen for, among other things, possible gang affiliations within applicants.

The information he was asked to give, he says, was bothersome because he felt his privacy and that of his Facebook friends was being invaded.

"To go this distance, it's too much and then it's illegal," stated Collins.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services released a statement saying, "If any information is provided by an applicant it is done so voluntarily. If an applicant does not provide this information, it is not held against them and the interview process moves forward."

Collins said, "That was never indicated to me, nor was that the implication, nor was there any mention that it was a voluntary process." 

He says that's the reason he called the American Civil Liberties Union and has been fighting that policy since late last year.

Meredith Curtis with the ACLU said, "Hopefully, we'll be able to resolve it quickly and we're able to ensure it stops in Maryland, that it doesn't go to other Maryland agencies, and it doesn't go to other governments across the country."

Collins says he has received orders to report back to work within the next month and a half. He wouldn't say at which institution.

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