Employers Shouldn't Ask For Facebook Password, Senators Say

Senators Eric Holder Facebook passwords employerBy Manuel Valdes

SEATTLE -- Two U.S. senators are asking Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether employers asking for Facebook passwords during job interviews are violating federal law, their offices announced Sunday.

Troubled by reports of the practice, Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said they are calling on the Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to launch investigations. The senators are sending letters to the heads of the agencies.

The Associated Press reported last week that some private and public agencies around the country are asking job seekers for their social media credentials. The practice has alarmed privacy advocates, but the legality of it remains murky.

On Friday, Facebook warned employers not to ask job applicants for their passwords to the site so they can poke around on their profiles. The company threatened legal action against applications that violate its long-standing policy against sharing passwords.

A Facebook executive cautioned that if an employer discovers that a job applicant is a member of a protected group, the employer may be vulnerable to claims of discrimination if it doesn't hire that person.

Personal information such as gender, race, religion and age are often displayed on a Facebook profile - all details that are protected by federal employment law.

"We don't think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don't think it's the right thing to do. While we do not have any immediate plans to take legal action against any specific employers, we look forward to engaging with policy makers and other stakeholders, to help better safeguard the privacy of our users," Facebook said in a statement.

Not sharing passwords is a basic tenet of online conduct. Aside from the privacy concerns, Facebook considers the practice a security risk.

"In an age where more and more of our personal information - and our private social interactions - are online, it is vital that all individuals be allowed to determine for themselves what personal information they want to make public and protect personal information from their would-be employers. This is especially important during the job-seeking process, when all the power is on one side of the fence," Schumer said in a statement.

Specifically, the senators want to know if this practice violates the Stored Communications Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Those two acts, respectively, prohibit intentional access to electronic information without authorization and intentional access to a computer without authorization to obtain information.

The senators also want to know whether two court cases relating to supervisors asking current employees for social media credentials could be applied to job applicants.

"I think it's going to take some years for courts to decide whether Americans in the digital age have the same privacy rights" as previous generations, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Catherine Crump said in a previous interview with the AP.

The senators also said they are drafting a bill to fill in any gaps that current laws don't cover.

Maryland and Illinois are considering bills that would bar public agencies for asking for this information.

In California, Democratic Sen. Leland Yee introduced a bill that would prohibit employers from asking current employees or job applicants for their social media user names or passwords. That state measure also would bar employers from requiring access to employees' and applicants' social media content, to prevent employers from requiring logins or printouts of that content for their review.

In Massachusetts, state Democratic Rep. Cheryl Coakly-Rivera also filed a similar bill Friday that also expands to include personal email. Her measure also bars employers from "friending" a job applicant to view protected Facebook profiles or using similar methods for other protected social media websites.

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Don't ask Holder he doesn't know anything about US law. He only got that job because its black.

November 04 2014 at 1:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

LOL - I beat the system.
I do not have a Facebook account.
Never have and do not plan to set one up.
How would an employer react to that?

March 27 2012 at 4:32 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

so they want our pass words just more prying by the facist right wingers

March 27 2012 at 2:39 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Just say NO! Isn't that what they have been trying to drill into everyone's head for years now? Just hand it back to them....NO!

March 27 2012 at 1:40 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Steve's comment

According to another story about this, people are doing it because they will automatically be eliminated as a job canidate if they refuse. And for some, the money a job brings in is worth a little privacy violation. I do not think employers should be allowed to access that information. Ever. Hell, if they looked at my Facebook wall all they would see is Farmville postings :)

March 27 2012 at 4:22 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Joanie Jaye

Employees should not be asking applicants for their facebook account. That is very inappropriate.

March 26 2012 at 11:51 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

It was my understanding in the beginning that a password is kept secured to prevent unauthorized use of your account and unauthorized entry to that particular website. If your password is shared with someone else, not only your account is vulnerable but all of your contacts and the website itself. I think this practice need to be addressed immediately by our law makers.

March 26 2012 at 10:55 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Facebook fans should not give anything out as they (the employer) cannot guarantee the information will not be used by others. The employers can always get hacked which has been a real problem over the last two years. These request should not be allowed. They have the right to ask if you use drugs(to be employed you have to take a drug test), have ever been arrested (mainly for theft) or had bad credit.

March 26 2012 at 10:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Brenda Hobart

When it's an employer market many will push the extreme because they know a lot of the applicants are desperate. Shameful, but not shocking.

March 26 2012 at 10:05 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

First, it was background checks; we're videotaped, electronically scanned, scrutinized... HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH????!

March 26 2012 at 10:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
spare time

Most employers only accept applications through the Internet. They are asking for birth dates now and your application cannot be submitted until that info is added. They ask you a number of questions that help determine what kind of a tax break they get or don't get if they hire you. Too many things are asked that have nothing to do with your ability to do the job. How far will the employers go next and when will the government intercept and say enough is enough, this needs to stop!

March 26 2012 at 9:49 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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