No law currently exists in Australia to protect a potential recruit from such requests and employers have the freedom to require such details in an interview, Chris Connolly told ninemsn.
Have you been asked for your private social media details at a job interview? Email ninemsn's social media editor with details.
"It's certainly not illegal to ask someone for a social network password," he said. "The real issue is what if they don't employ you — that is they discriminate against you — because you said 'no' and other people said 'yes', (but) there's no legal case."
The issue has come to the fore after reports surfaced of companies in the US employing the tactic in their recruitment process.
While there are no known cases in Australia, Mr Connolly said people were concerned with the trend.
"We have had people contacting the centre querying whether they'd have to give their Facebook or social network password to a potential employer," he said.
It was natural for employers to be concerned about their staff posting negative statements about the company on a public social profile, but there seemed little value in delving into the private information of a prospective recruit, Mr Connolly said.
"It's fine for employers to retain the right to do some general background checking of employees. Checking someone's background on Google is okay as it's the normal process," he said.
"But it's really overstepping the mark going to the private information that is generally being shared with family and friends."
Connolly said while there were no legal obstacles in the way for employers, it created an ethical minefield.
"From an ethical standpoint it's just bizarre," he said. "It doesn't seem at all relevant to employment.
"There is information on Facebook that can only be seen behind a password and that information should be of no concern to an employer," he added.
Mr Connolly said there was potential for discrimination against those who were "privacy aware" and "concerned about their civil liberties and freedoms" suggesting the treatment didn’t receive the same importance as other privacy issues in the recruitment process.
"If you did this in other areas — for example you discriminated against someone who was in a trade union because they believed in workers' rights — then you'd definitely be breaking the law and you'd be acting unethically," he said.
"You'd be at the bottom of the pile in terms of being a good and fair employer."
heraldsun.com.au 24 Mar 2012