Currently there are a few stories going on the news about some companies in the USA demanding the Facebook passwords of their employees, and prospective recruits at their job interview, for a multitude of questionable reasons.
In the past there have been many stories in the media of various people promoting sharing their passwords with their boyfriend/girlfriend/partners.
I say it’s silly, and quite possibly very illegal in some instances. If you were to share your facebook/email/social networking password with a third party, not only are you sharing YOUR information, you are also sharing your all your friends information too, who may not be so happy about you passing such information on to someone they do not know or trust.
Your friends/colleagues or employer may have shared or sent you and email/message with some confidential information, which you are now sharing with a person that was not intended.
For example your employer may have sent a trade secret that was only for your knowledge.
If your partner and you may later separate, would you like them to have access to your email/Facebook? They may have put some sort of “monitor application” on your profile which allow them to track you in a limited manner, even after changing your password. They may have added their email address as a password reset email (possible via MSN, etc)
A more troubling example is that you may have a friend who is trying to avoid an abusive partner/ex-partner. They email you saying they are going on a trip and staying at a particular hotel over the weekend. Your partner happens to be a friend of the abusive (ex) partner, and reads the message, and may causally inform him/her what he has read, causing harm to your friend.
A common reason given for sharing a password with a partner is to show “trust”. Firstly, if there is such trust issues between you, you have more problems than sharing a password is going to solve.
You should NEVER share your password for any service with anyone. Even husbands and wives should think twice about peeking into each other’s emails, as there are very legitimate reasons why one may not want the other to see something, such as the example above, or maybe a husband may be planning a surprise for his wife.
Sharing passwords is almost always likely to be in breach of the Terms and Conditions of the services concerned, and they are likely to block your account, ban you from their services, or in serious cases, may even sue you if something has been seriously compromised.
At worst you could have legal action taken against you if something truly confidential is shared.
So if you are asked to provide your password to anyone, you should realise you have the right to say no. If a partner threatens you to give your password, explain the legal ramifications, and consider leaving them, for trust is important in a relationship. Giving passwords is not trust, its paranoia. It doesn’t lead to greater trust, if anything it leads to less trust.
If an employer asks you, tell them no, and again explain the legal ramifications. In the UK and Europe, this can be seen as a breach of the Data Protection Act. In other countries, where it may not be illegal as such to ask for a password (currently, for example, the USA), both yourself and your employer are making yourself liable for legal action by your friends.
As for prospective employers asking during an interview, well they have no reason to ask for the passwords. Even in the guise of security, there are other ways to find out about you if there is a need to security clear you for a job. Indeed for a company that values security they are asking for a user’s private passwords, which is an oxymoron. I understand with the current job climate, it can be tempting to give in. But one must stand the ground. Either you or the employer may face liabilities, which would cause more problems down the line, including losing the job, or even being arrested should something bad happen as a result of your friend’s or associate’s privacy being violated.
So in conclusion, there should be no reason to give out your password, Facebook, mail, or otherwise. Would you like it if your friend shared their password with an unknown person, so that the unknown person is able to read your private messages, or see your supposedly private “friends only” profile?