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Is Your Employer Trying To Break Federal Privacy Laws: How Congress Feels About Facebook And Your Passwords
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Is Your Employer Trying to Break Federal Privacy Laws: How Congress Feels About Facebook And Your Passwords

An employer cannot ask for your house key during an interview. They cannot ask to read your diary or your private journal before they offer you a job. But, a number of employers are asking to do the equivalent of those things by demanding the passwords of potential employees so that they can look at their private Facebook pages. Now, two US Senators are asking several federal agencies to help determine if these requests are more than just borderline creepy. They want to know if employers as well as colleges across the nation are breaking federal laws by asking for Facebook passwords.

Senator Charles Schumer, (D, NY) and Senator Richard Blumenthal, (D, CT) are both demanding a decision from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the US Department of Justice on whether those employer demands are in violation of current federal laws including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as and the Stored Communications Act. It was Blumenthal who added the examples of house keys and diaries to the letter that was cowritten by the pair.

In addition, Blumenthal announced that he is currently working on legislation which would legally prevent employers from making this request, legislation which might be necessary to clear up a legal gray zone.

Erin Egan is the chief privacy officer at Facebook and calls these requests, reportedly made by hundreds if not thousands of employers and college admissions teams across the nation, a direct violation of the current terms of service set up by Facebook. Egan warns that these requests as well as any search that occurs on the page or profile could open the employer or others up for legal liability in the near future.

Experts call it a matter of employment law lagging behind in terms of the internet age. Employers call it a desire to get a real picture of the person they are interviewing so that they know who they are dealing with. Employees are calling it nothing but old fashioned snooping. Online information can be easily searched by Googling an applicant's name, but the employer an only get to the Facebook profile by permission or by giving their own password with some employers implying that if the password is not given, neither will the job. Now Congress is preparing to wade into the debate while agencies debate on whether the laws prevent this practice or not. For now, many employees are caught in a legal limbo, unsure if they should give their password and hope the employer doesn't judge too harshly or refuse and not be judged at all.


Street Talk

I guess I would have to pass on the job. Thanks for the article.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
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