Sunday, March 25, 2012

Senators ask DoJ, EEOC for investigations into employers asking for Facebook login info

The fallout continues to increase as more Americans become aware of employers asking for access to employees' Facebook accounts, either as part of an interview process or as a condition of continued employment. Now, U.S. senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have requested that Attorney General Eric Holder investigate the matter.

In addition to sending a letter to the A.G., the senators also plan to send a letter to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well.

The senators are interested in knowing if the practice of asking for Facebook passwords during an interview would violate either the Stored Communications Act (SCA) or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). The SCA prohibits intentional access to electronic information without authorization, while the CFAA bans intentional access to a computer without authorization to obtain information.
In addition, Blumenthal has begun drafting a bill that would prohibit requests for Facebook login credentials. In a statement, Schumer said,

"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."

Facebook on Friday said that it would back its end users in the matter. It warned employers against the practice, and noted that if an employer discovers that a job applicant is a member of a protected group through its Facebook access, that employer may be subject to claims of discrimination if it doesn't hire that person.

Facebook said,

"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."

Notably, Facebook said that it considers such password sharing a security. For example, it's no secret that many people use one or only a few passwords for all of their online accounts. Even if tbhe employer uses "shoulder surfing," looking over an applicant's shoulder instead of requiring the password, privacy issues still exist.

Maryland and Illinois are considering bills that would bar public agencies for asking for such information. Meanwhile, in California, Democratic State Sen. Leland Yee has introduced a bill that would prohibit employers from asking current employees or job applicants for their social media user names or passwords.

In Massachusetts, State Democratic Rep. Cheryl Coakly-Rivera has filed a similar bill that also covers personal email in addition to social media. The measure would also bars employers from "friending" a job applicant to view protected Facebook profiles or using similar methods for other protected social media websites.

Some agencies or employers have also been found to be friending employees in order to gain access to a person's posts and other information.

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