Aug 9, 201211:23 AMCity Beat
Capital Opinion by Michael A. Sand, Jacqueline G. Goodwin and others.
Demanding Facebook Passwords Should Be Illegal
(page 1 of 2)
If you are an employer and think you should be able to access a prospective employees’ Facebook page as a condition of employment, you are not alone.
According to a recent report by the Associated Press (AP), employers are now going beyond merely glancing at a person’s social networking profiles and instead are asking to log in as the user to look around. And “as the job market steadily improves,” the report warns, some job seekers “cannot afford to say, ‘no.’”
It’s tantamount to a prospective employer demanding your house keys so he can rummage through your dresser. And if you dare to exercise your right to refuse an employer’s request, the consequences can be dire.
While it has become fairly standard for employers to view the social media sites of prospective workers in order to learn more about them, this new trend crosses the line because it is an outrageous invasion of privacy with no justification for the vast majority of occupations.
According to the AP report, this type of intrusion is more common with government agencies, especially those dealing in law enforcement.
“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 lawyer Catherine Crump said in a statement posted on the organization's website. “People are entitled to their private lives. You'd be appalled if your employer insisted on opening up your postal mail to see if there was anything of interest inside. It's equally out of bounds for an employer to go on a fishing expedition through a person's private social media account.”
To be fair, there might be instances when it is appropriate for employers to monitor social networking sites of their workers – if, for example, security clearances are required. But the vast majority of employers have no legitimate reason to invade the private lives of workers.
This spring, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected an effort to give the Federal Communications Commission the power to stop employers from asking job applicants for their password to Facebook and other social networking sites. The effort was an amendment, proposed by Representative Ed Perlmutter of Colorado, 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 was voted down 236 to 184.
It is interesting to note that Perlmutter may not care nearly as much about privacy as one would think. In 2008, he voted for anti-privacy legislation.
However, in Harrisburg, one state legislator does care about privacy. Rep. Jesse White (D-Washington/Allegheny/Beaver) has introduced legislation (H.B. 2332) to ban the practice of employers requiring social media users to reveal user names and passwords as a condition of employment.