According to the Council of State Governments, some companies are asking employees to " 'friend' a human resources director or coach." And many workers are, understandably, nervous. In fact, a recent Cornell University study indicated that some Facebook users are even going so far as to drop their accounts or suspend use "to avoid being friended" by a boss.
Concern that employers' snooping into workers' social media accounts has become so widespread that 35 state legislatures have introduced bills barring employers from asking for employees' social media account passwords, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Oregon and Washington became the latest states to pass laws prohibiting employers from requiring workers or applicants to friend managers. A handful of other states, such as Arkansas and New Mexico, have similar laws. But others -- Colorado and Utah, for example -- have laws that could be read as only prohibiting a demand for an account password and not the requirement to add a boss to a contact list.
What's wrong with being a 'friend'? A lot: By friending a boss, you give access to most, if not all, of the information the company would be interested in, whether they're complaints about work, political inclinations different from your boss's, or photos of you out on a night of drinking and carousing. Your life can be on display at all times. Differences in such areas as politics and religion could potentially affect your career, even if subconsciously on your supervisor's part.
Relatively few people bother to structure their Facebook's privacy settings to wall off information from one group of friends but not another. In addition, Facebook privacy controls frequently change, meaning that users must revisit what they had set in the past to ensure that their choices remain in force.
Wharton Business School professor Nancy Rothbard, who has studied social media usage, says for many workers, friending a boss is as complicated a decision as to whether to add a parent, only with some additional complications. The supervisor's gender can raise what Rothbard calls the "creep factor." Female bosses sending a friend request were more likely to be accepted when they offered more personal information. With male bosses, the result was the opposite.
What to do when you get the request: Until more states adopt laws offering employees protections, most workers have few choices. You can refuse your manager's request, which could be awkward. You could ignore the request and hope that your boss eventually forgets. Or you can accept the request and then create one Facebook group for the boss and exclude that group from posts and access to photos and other information. However, that could eventually seem obvious to a boss who is looking to snoop.
Are you your supervisor's friend? How do you handle it?
The Faces of Facebook
Required To 'Friend' The Boss On Facebook? More States Say No
Title: Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Facebook Age: 28
The Back Story: As a 12-year old, Zuckerberg created an instant messaging system a full year before AOL introduced Instant Messenger. Before going off to college, Zuckerberg created a music-predicting software resembling Pandora that was called Synapse. He turned down jobs offers from AOL and Microsoft choosing instead to attend Harvard. The story of his dropping out of Harvard his sophomore year to launch Facebook would of course become the subject of the 2010 feature film, The Social Network.
Title: Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Age: 42
How Rich: Sandberg was the highest paid Facebook employee in 2011 with a total compensation of $30.87 million. She also reportedly owns .1 percent of the company she joined in 2008, and stands to gain 39.3 million shares after the IPO, should result in an eventual take of about $1.44 billion. (She had 1.9 million before.) But however much she makes out, she'll still be lagging behind Oprah, whose net worth stands at $2.7 billion, according to Forbes.
The Back Story: Sandberg, who previously led the online sales division for Google, is widely credited with making Google Adwords profitable. The two met at a Silicon Valley Christmas party back in 2007, and upon meeting Sandberg, Zuckerberg started a full court press to hire her from Google. The courting process included six weeks of dinners at Sandberg's Palo Alto home, because Zuckerberg's apartment had no furniture. Since joining Facebook, she's credited with discreetly inserting advertising on the website that doesn't crowd the social network. And under her leadership, the company began reporting a profit in 2010. She's also the highest ranking women at Facebook, whose board is composed entirely of white men.
How Rich: As of March, Saverin's net worth was estimated to be $2 billion, according to Forbes. At the IPO, he owns 5 percent of Facebook. He's also made early investments in Jumio, the online and mobile payment product.
The Back Story: As an undergrad at Harvard, the Brazilian-born Saverin made $300,000 betting on oil and weather futures. Among all the friends and acquaintances with a business background Zuckerberg allegedly sought out Saverin because of his tendency to wear business suits to class, among other reasons, suggesting a sharp financial acumen. Saverin pushed for early commercialization of Facebook, and this was the source of the fighting made famous in The Social Network. After opting against going out to California for the first summer, he eventually was ousted from the company. He sued Facebook and Zuckerberg after his 34.4 percent ownership of the company reportedly was diluted. While the terms of the settlement were not disclosed, his position on the masthead as a co-founder was restored after the litigation.
Interesting Fact: Shortly ahead of the IPO, it was announced that Saverin has renounced his U.S. citizenship, causing speculation that the move was motivated by tax reasons. He's currently living in Singapore.
Title: Co-Founder of Facebook Age: 28
How Rich: Hughes is said to own one percent of Facebook, which was estimated at more than $600 million pre-IPO, according to Forbes.
Back Story: Hughes met Zuckerberg while the two were living together in the Kirkland residential House at Harvard. He served as the company's first spokesman, and pitched product ideas, such as suggesting that each college have its own network on Facebook when the site expanded beyond Harvard. Also, while at Facebook, Hughes worked with Il.-Senator Barack Obama to create his first fan page. In 2008, he left Facebook to lead the social media efforts for Obama's presidential campaign. This year, he bought The New Republic.
Title: Co-Founder of Facebook; Co-Founder of Asana Age: 27
How Rich: Zuckerberg's roommate at Harvard, he was the site's first programmer and first chief technology officer. He reportedly owns 7.6 percent of Facebook. His net worth was estimated by Forbes this March to be $3.5 billion.
The Back Story: A programming whiz like Zuckerberg, Moskowitz was Facebook's first chief of technology, and helped construct the first website, as well as the original mobile platforms. He left the company in 2008 to launch Asana, which he hopes will be to the working world what Facebook is to social networking.
The Back Story: Before Sean Parker became a part of the Facebook family, he was joined by friend Shawn Fanning in starting the controversial file-sharing service Napster. After seeing his roommate's girlfriend using a website called thefacebook.com, he reached out to Zuckerberg to join the team back in 2004. He pioneered the website's first photo-sharing program. Parker was forced out of Facebook's ranks when he was arrested in 2005 for suspicion of possessing cocaine at a party he was hosting in North Carolina. (Charges were eventually dropped.)
Interesting Fact: It was Parker who encouraged Zuckerberg to drop the "the" from the title, and to not return to Harvard.
Title: Director of Engineering of Facebook Age: 29
How Rich: Net worth unknown at time of IPO.
The Back Story: Andrew "Boz" Bosworth was Zuckerberg's teaching assistant in artificial intelligence the semester he created Facebook. After graduating from Harvard he worked for two years as developer for Microsoft, before joining Facebook in 2005. He oversaw the launch of News Feed back in 2006.
Interesting Fact:Bosworth is in charge of initiating new employees at Facebook through a "boot camp," which introduces all new employees to the company's computer code and culture.
Title: Angel Investor of Facebook; President of Clarium Capital Age: 44
How Rich: Thiel reportedly owns 2.5 percent of Facebook. He made an initial investment of $500,000 in the social network. His pre-IPO net worth was pegged by Forbes to be $1.5 billion in March.
The Back Story: He co-founded PayPal in 1998, and became the first major investor for Facebook after agreeing to Zuckerberg's demand of having majority control over the company at the board. As an outspoken libertarian and donor to the presidential campaigns of Ron Paul, Thiel was drawn to Zuckerberg's mission to "make the world more open."
Title: Chief Financial Officer of Facebook Age: 42
How Rich: Ebersman reportedly owns .1 percent of Facebook at the time of the IPO. His total compensation last year was reported to be $18.7 million.
The Back Story:Ebersman was hired in 2009 to oversee the IPO, and he has met privately with outside private investors to help them craft individual deals as opposed to opening up a pitch process. This is a marked contrast with the usual practice of opening up a bidding.
Title: Director of Engineering of Facebook Age: 36
How Rich: He reportedly owns 0.11 percent of the company and said to have been paid $24.7 million last year (Most of which was in stock.)
The Back Story: As the Chief Technology Officer at Sun Microsystems, he led the development of the Firefox web browser. He was hired by Facebook back in 2008 to oversee the company's 600 engineers. He regularly organizes the pizza-fueled overnight hackathons, where the only rule is that participants work on something they don't do for their day job.
Interesting Fact: He led the creation of the Comments plug-in, which allows to integrate Facebook's comments on their website.
Title: General Counsel of Facebook Age: 44
How Rich: Ullyot reportedly owns .1 percent of the company at the time of the IPO. His total compensation last year was said to be $675,000.
The Back Story: Ullyot had a storied career in Republican legal and corporate circles before joining Facebook in 2008. He had clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and was chief of staff to George W. Bush's attorney-general, Alberto Gonzalez. He also served as top lawyer for AOL Time Warner. He's currently leading Facebook's legal battle with Yahoo, as the two giants have sued each other over patent infringement.
Title: Vice President of Product, Facebook Age: 29
How Rich: Net worth unknown at time of IPO.
The Back Story: Cox dropped out of a grad school program for computer science at Stanford back in 2005 to join Facebook. He found out about the start-up through his roommate, who was an early employee. He was initially hesitant to join the team, thinking it wasn't a serious enough endeavor, but meetings with Moskovitz, among others, changed his mind. He worked with Bosworth to launch News Feed, and has also overseen hiring at Facebook. He's since become Zuckerberg's de facto chief of staff, working with the CEO on product development.
Title: Designer of Facebook; Co-Founder of JobSpice Age: 28
How Rich: Net worth unknown at time of IPO.
The Back Story: McCollum and Zuckerberg were enrolled in five courses together during their sophomore year at Harvard, most of which were in computer science. One day, McCollum received an IM from Zuckerberg asking him to design Facebook's logo, saying, "Who else is going to do it?" McCollum decided to design the first face of Facebook by drawing a sketch of actor Al Pacino. He stayed on at Facebook until 2006, and worked on the file-sharing program Wirehog, which never took off the way Zuckerberg hoped it would. After leaving Facebook, he went back to Harvard to finish his undergrad degree and complete a master's degree in education. He's also worked as an entrepreneur- in-residence at New Enterprise Associates and Flyridge Capital Partners.
Interesting Fact: McCollum and Zuckerberg attended a meeting with early investors Sequoia Capital wearing t-shirts and pajama bottoms.
Titles: The Founders of the Harvard Connection (later ConnectU) are now venture capitalists Age: 30
How Rich: Along with their friend Divya Narendra, the affluent brothers famously got $65 million in settling with Facebook over their charge of breach of contract. (They eventually gave up on their quest for a larger settlement.) They also each reportedly walked away with .22 percent ownership of Facebook.
The Back Story: Along with their friend Divya Narendra, the Winklevoss twins began developing an online social network in 2002. After shuffling through several programmers, they were referred to Zuckerberg, whom they met with in November of 2003 in the cafeteria at Kirkland House at Harvard. Zuckerberg went on to develop his own website after telling the twins he was helping them build theirs. In addition to pursuing legal recourse over the alleged breach of contract, the Winklevosses have graduated from Harvard and the Said Business School at Oxford. They've also competed in international rowing competitions.