Employers asking for your passwords? No law against it

Just because you dislike something should there be a law against it? Let’s discuss.

People have been outraged lately at the thought of potential empolyers asking people for their Facebook passwords and log in information. In this day and age, 91% of employers do social media screens before they hire and 76% of those potential employers are looking at people’s Facebook pages before they hire them. Based on those numbers one would think that people would attempt to keep their Facebook pages relatively professional.  For those who do not, it has always been their own fault in the past. In fact, 12% of potential applicants for jobs have been rejected after the employers saw their Facebook pages.

It seems that some potential employers now have a problem with you keeping your Facebook pages private as well. For those who do keep their pages private, this is where the password issue has come along.

According to the Washington Post:

 The ACLU is warning that some prospective employers are asking applicants for their Facebook usernames and passwords so they can have a look around, as part of the interview process. “It’s an invasion of privacy for private employers to insist on looking at people’s private Facebook pages as a condition of employment or consideration in an application process,” ACLU attorney Catherine Crump said in a statement.

Yet that’s what’s been happening in some cases, with some companies and government agencies asking applicants for the information to log in as the user, AP reports. Some employers say they’re looking for inappropriate pictures or relationships with underage people, as well as examples of illegal behavior. They’re also watching out for disparaging remarks about employers or derogatory behavior, according to AP.

Some people are comparing potential employers asking for your Facebook passwords to asking for your house keys:

“There’s nothing incriminating on my Facebook page,” Chris Weninegar says.

But when Chris heard that some employers are now asking job applicants for their Facebook username and password, he compared it to asking for the keys to your home.

“And go through all your files and records,” Chris says.

Yahoo.com points out that potential employers are moving along with technology:

 I realize there are certain things an employer might want to know about the person he or she hires — including how much time that person spends on Facebook. I realize a lot of managers are getting online to view the publicly available information about the people they plan to hire. And I don’t know that I even really agree with that, though there’s not much one can do to stop that.

I don’t even agree with the notion of requiring prospective employees to log in to their Facebook account during the interview so the employer can take a look that way. That, in my view, is akin to demanding someone to unlock their door under the threat of losing a job opportunity so they can be complicit in your nosing around their home.

So, let’s look at the legal aspect of this.

Facebook has a serious problem with potential employers asking for your password as it violates their terms and services:

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.  But it also may cause problems for the employers that they are not anticipating.  For example, if an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don’t hire that person.

Employers also may not have the proper policies and training for reviewers to handle private information.  If they don’t—and actually, even if they do—the employer may assume liability for the protection of the information they have seen or for knowing what responsibilities may arise based on different types of information (e.g. if the information suggests the commission of a crime).

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.

In fact, two Senators are probing into this issue now:

 Senators Richard Blumenthal and Charles E. Schumer posted an open letter on Monday, asking the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to weigh in on the growing debate on personal privacy and the use of social networks to learn about job seekers.

“Employers have no right to ask job applicants for their house keys or to read their diaries,” Schumer said in a statement. “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?”

Now, let’s look at this rationally. Should there be a law to stop potential employers from asking you for your Facebook passwords? That depends, are they forcing you to hand over these passwords? Is someone holding you captive if you do not hand over this information? The obvious answer is no.

If you don’t want an employer who asks you for that kind of information, work elsewhere.

An employer can ask you for your house keys, but you don’t have to give them over.

The House of Representatives just shot down an effort to make this action against the law:

The effort was an amendment, proposed by Representative Ed Perlmutter of Colorado, added to legislation to reform the FCC.

“What this amendment does is it says that you cannot demand, as a condition of employment, that somebody reveal a confidential password to their Facebook, to their Flickr, to their Twitter, whatever their account may be,” Perlmutter said during a speech on the House floor.

The amendment would have added the following paragraph to the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act of 2012:

“Nothing in this Act or any amendment made by this Act shall be construed to limit or restrict the ability of the Federal Communications Commission to adopt a rule or to amend an existing rule to protect online privacy, including requirements in such rule that prohibit licensees or regulated entities from mandating that job applicants or employees disclose confidential passwords to social networking websites.”

The amendment was deemed unnecessary by the Republicans, and was voted down 236 to 184. Only one House Republican voted in support of the amendment, while only two House Democrats voted against the amendment. Republicans argued that while the proposed legislation wouldn’t help the situation, they were willing to work on new legislation in the future.

While this might sound like Republicans hate privacy, that’s not necessarily the case. The actual proposal that was being debated was the FCC Process Reform Act, which is a Republican-backed and Democrat-opposed bill. The FCC Process Reform Act wants to require the FCC to be more transparent, and Democrats believe it’s unacceptable to require the (currently Democrat-controlled) agency to do this.

So, what do you think?

Should there be a law or should people refuse to work for companies that ask for that kind of information?

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