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Employers requiring Facebook passwords may be investigated by feds

Employers demanding private Facebook passwords will not only be investigated by Facebook but also potentially the Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, which will likely shape internet privacy laws going forward.

Questionable interview requirement

A new trend was recently unveiled that has shaken the business world, as some companies are requiring their employees to divulge the passwords to their private Facebook accounts during job interviews, which AGBeat was the first to point out is a violation of the Facebook Terms of Service and would render that user in violation and at risk of losing their entire account.

In other words, it is not even okay with Facebook, a company that many consider one of the reigning rulers of questionable privacy practices.

Senators calling for a federal investigation

According to Fox News, Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut are calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the mattter of employers asking for Facebook passwords during interviews, as it violates federal law.

The Senators are asking the Department of Justice and U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission to launch investigations, notifying the heads of the agencies via letter, according to Fox News.

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Facebook says it will “take action”

“Facebook takes your privacy seriously,” Facebook Chief Privacy Officer, Erin Egan said in a statement. “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.”

Egan continued, “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.”

Another angle many employers have not considered is that they “may not have the proper policies and training for reviewers to handle private information,” Egan noted. “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).”

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Written By

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Coy Davidson

    March 27, 2012 at 3:06 am

    While at some level this doesn’t surprise me that some employer would ask, but it really is kind of mind boggling that human resource executives wouldn’t have the common sense to recognize that this is a huge can of worms. I think it is as ridiculous as asking for other private records such as your bank statement or cell phone records.

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