Do employers have the right to ask job seekers for their Facebook passwords?
Bill banning employer Facebook snooping introduced in Congress
Two Democratic senators are asking Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to investigate whether employers asking for Facebook passwords during job interviews are violating federal law, their offices announced Sunday.
Troubled by reports of the practice, Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said they were calling on the Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to begin investigations. The senators are sending letters to the heads of the agencies.
The Associated Press reported last week that some private and public agencies around the country were asking job seekers for their social media credentials. The practice has alarmed privacy advocates, but its legality remained murky.
On Friday, Facebook warned employers not to ask job applicants for their passwords, presumably so they could view applicant profiles on the site. The company threatened legal action against applications that violated its longstanding policy against sharing passwords.
A Facebook executive cautioned that if an employer discovered that a job applicant is a member of a protected group, the employer might be vulnerable to claims of discrimination if it did not hire that person.
Personal information such as gender, race, religion and age are often displayed on a Facebook profile — all details that are protected by federal employment law.
Not sharing passwords is a basic tenet of online conduct. Aside from the privacy concerns, Facebook considers the practice a security risk.
“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,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement.
Specifically, the senators want to know if the practice violates the Stored Communications Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Those two acts, respectively, prohibit intentional access to electronic information without authorization and intentional access to a computer without authorization to obtain information.
The senators also want to know whether two court cases relating to supervisors asking current employees for social media credentials could be applied to job applicants.
The senators said they were writing a bill to fill in any gaps not covered by current laws.