Two US senators have called on federal agencies to investigate whether employers are violating federal law by requesting Facebook passwords from interviewees.
Senators Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, and Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, have asked the Department of Justice and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to start investigations.
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.
Employers have no right to ask job applicants for their house keys or to read their diaries -- why should they be able to ask them for their Facebook passwords and gain unwarranted access to a trove of private information about what we like, what messages we send to people, or who we are friends with? added Schumer.
In a letter to the federal agencies, the Senators have asked for an investigation into whether the practice is a breach of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
I am alarmed and outraged by rapidly and widely spreading employer practices seeking access to Facebook passwords or confidential information on other social networks, said Blumenthal.
“An investigation by the Department of Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will help remedy ongoing intrusions and coercive practices,’’ he added.
The Associated Press reported last week that Justin Bassett, while being interviewed for a new job, was asked for his Facebook username and password. It was reported that such incidents are on the rise now with the increasing popularity of social networks.
It was stated that employers were seeking background information on job applicants through such social networks. Employers' practice of seeking passwords of employee profiles amounts to invasion of privacy and is a federal violation of privacy laws, it is argued.
Erin Egan, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, had stated last week that it could initiate legal action against employers who demand Facebook passwords. “If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password, let anyone access your account, or do anything that might jeopardize the security of your account or violate the privacy of your friends, he said in the statement.
“Facebook takes your privacy seriously. We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges, he added.