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More than one billion people worldwide have registered accounts with Facebook. People display personal information, pictures, and videos for friends, family, and even strangers to view. Many employers use publicly available Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other social media outlets as screening tools for job applicants. And they may also use them as a way to monitor employees. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

A handful of employers, however, have pushed their due diligence even further than standard Internet searches. For example in 2006, Fox News reported that a sheriff’s office in McLean County, Illinois, asked a job applicant to sign into his social media account during an interview. In 2009, ABC News reported that the city offices of Bozeman, Montana, required all applicants to provide their login information to social media websites. More recently in 2012, the Associated Press ran a story about an employer who asked an applicant to turn over his social media password during an interview.

These stories generated countless headlines, and the media attention triggered responses from employers, lawyers, and legislators across the nation. Despite the relentless attention the public has given the topic, reported instances of employers that have requested such information can be counted on two hands.

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