Sat 24 Mar, 2012 11:18 am
Facebook To Employers: Don't Demand Passwords
by The Associated Press
March 23, 2012
Employers have been asking for prospective employees' Facebook username and passwords to do some extra research on whom they may be hiring.
Facebook is warning employers not to demand the passwords of job applicants, saying that it's an invasion of privacy that opens companies to legal liabilities.
The social networking company is also threatening legal action.
An Associated Press story this week documented cases of job applicants who are being asked, at the interview table, to reveal their Facebook passwords so their prospective employers can check their backgrounds.
In a post on Friday, Facebook's chief privacy officer cautions that if an employer discovers that a job applicant is a member of a protected group, the employer may open itself up to claims of discrimination if it doesn't hire that person.
"If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password," Erin Egan wrote.
A Democratic senator from Connecticut said he is writing a bill that would stop the practice of employers asking job applicants for their Facebook or other social media passwords.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said that such a practice is an "unreasonable invasion of privacy for people seeking work."
"These practices seem to be spreading, which is why federal law ought to address them. They go beyond the borders of individual states and call for a national solution," said Blumenthal, who first spoke to Politico on Wednesday.
The AP reported 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.
Experts say the terms of service for Facebook and other sites don't carry much weight in these cases. The Department of Justice regards it as a federal crime to enter a social networking site in violation of those terms, but the agency said during recent congressional testimony that such violations would not be prosecuted.
The practice is more prevalent among public agencies, such as police departments and 911 dispatchers.
Blumenthal said his bill will have some exceptions, such as some federal and local law enforcement agencies, or national security departments. He said it would include private companies with government contracts for highly classified work.
Lori Andrews, a law professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law specializing in Internet privacy, is concerned about the pressure placed on applicants, even if they voluntarily provide access to social sites.
"Volunteering is coercion if you need a job," Andrews said.