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Facebook tells employers: Hands off our users' passwords

March 23, 2012|By Michelle Maltais
  • The average Facebook profile can be overflowing with information that could be used to piece together a detailed composite of a job applicant.
The average Facebook profile can be overflowing with information that… (Dan Kitwood / Getty Images )

Facebook has now weighed in on the brewing controversy of employers requiring applicants to hand over their log-in information. Their reply: Hands off. 

Erin Egan, the company's chief privacy officer, posted a note Friday on Facebook explicitly stating the company's position:"As a user, you shouldn’t be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job.  And as the friend of a user, you shouldn’t have to worry that your private information or communications will be revealed to someone you don’t know and didn’t intend to share with just because that user is looking for a job." 

Just Thursday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) decried the vetting practice as an “unreasonable invasion of privacy for people seeking work” and vowed to write legislation to stop it.

“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.”

The recent concerns were spurred by 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.

This issue of employers violating applicants' social media privacy has been on the radar of the American Civil Liberties Union, which had been involved in a similar case in 2010.

The ACLU has also weighed in recently. "People are entitled to their private lives," said ACLU attorney Catherine Crump on the ACLU site. "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."

“I would argue that it's an invasion of privacy and violation of anti-discrimination law,” said employment attorney Amy Semmel of Kelley Semmel in Los Angeles.

The average profile can be overflowing with information that could be used to piece together a detailed composite of a job applicant, which can include details such as ethnicity and physical ability that are strictly off-limits in the hiring process.

Facebook boasts more than 800 million registered members posting all aspects of their lives on the site. And privacy has been a longstanding concern and issue for the company and its users.

Facebook's Egan warns that the company may take legal action against those who continue this practice. "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."

You can read the entire statement here.

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Original source: Facebook tells employers: Hands off our users' passwords

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