Privacy Law

Facebook, US Senators Say Employers Who Seek Job Applicants' Passwords Could Be Violating the Law

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Citing “a distressing increase in reports of employers or others seeking to gain inappropriate access to people’s Facebook profiles,” Facebook’s chief privacy officer warned in a Friday post on the social network’s website that the company could “initiate legal action” against employers who do so.

The comment by Erin Egan suggested that information obtained in this manner could put employers at risk of a discrimination suit, reports Reuters.

Her comment follows news last week that lawmakers in at least two states, Illinois and Maryland, are considering possible legislation to prohibit employers from pressuring job applicants to provide their Facebook passwords. Lawmakers in California and Massachusetts also are mulling such legislation, the Associated Press reports.

Meanwhile, the Hill and the Technolog page of msnbc reported Monday that two U.S. senators are asking federal agencies to determine whether employers who act in this manner are violating statutes concerning computer use.

They are Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

The two asked the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate whether federal laws such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Stored Communications Act are violated by the practice and say they are drafting legislation to make clear that the practice is illegal.

In a written statement, the American Civil Liberties Union earlier called a Maryland Department of Corrections practice of asking applicants to browse through their Facebook accounts in the presence of an interviewer an invasion of privacy, the Reuters article reported.

“You’d be appalled if your employer insisted on opening up your postal mail to see if there was anything of interest inside,” said attorney Catherine Crump of the ACLU. “It’s equally out of bounds for an employer to go on a fishing expedition through a person’s private social media account.”

Additional and related coverage: “States Mull Possible Law to Ban Public Employers from Asking Applicants for Facebook Password”

PC World: “Facebook Tips to Make Password Privacy Issue a Non-Issue”

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