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Senator aims to ban asking job applicants for Facebook passwords

March 22, 2012|By Michelle Maltais
  • A Facebook user, shown in 2009, edits privacy settings.
A Facebook user, shown in 2009, edits privacy settings. (Sean Kilpatrick, The Canadian…)

Job seekers just found a new Facebook friend: Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

Just as stories are surfacing of employers requiring access to applicants’ social media profiles, Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, says he is writing a bill to keep employers from asking job applicants' social media account passwords.

Blumenthal called the the practice an “unreasonable invasion of privacy for people seeking work.”

 “These practices seem to be spreading, which is why federal law ought to address them,” Blumenthal told Politico. “They go beyond the borders of individual states and call for a national solution.”

His concerns stem from a report by the Associated Press about employers asking applicants and existing employees for log-in credentials to their email accounts and social networking sites in order to scrutinize their online behavior.

The practice of cajoling new applicants who have private accounts to share their log-in credentials as part of the hiring process has alarmed privacy advocates. Questions are being raised about the legality of this type of social-network profile scouring, which is also the focus of similar proposed legislation in Maryland and Illinois.

Even asking for another person's password violates Facebook's terms of service. But those terms carry questionable legal weight, and experts say the legality of asking for such information remains fuzzy.

Although the Justice Department regards entering a social networking site in violation of the terms of service as a federal crime, the agency has said such violations would not be prosecuted.

With Facebook’s more than 800 million registered members posting photos and details of all aspects of their lives, the social network contains a gold mine of information. The average profile is overflowing with information that could be used to construct a fairly detailed sketch of a job applicant. That could pose a potential human resources hazard for employers, as it might contain details on ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, religion and preexisting medical conditions.

"I am very deeply troubled by the practices that seem to be spreading voraciously around the country," Blumenthal told Politico.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Original source: Senator aims to ban asking job applicants for Facebook passwords

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