The Associated Press reported last week that some private and public agencies around the country are asking job seekers for their social media credentials. The practice has alarmed privacy advocates, but the legality of it remains murky.
Troubled by reports of the practice, Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut have called on the Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to launch investigations.
Personal information such as gender, race, religion and age are often displayed on a Facebook profile — all details that are protected by federal employment law. Not sharing passwords is a basic tenet of online conduct. Aside from the privacy concerns, Facebook considers the practice a security risk.
“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,” Facebook said in a statement. “While we do not have any immediate plans to take legal action against any specific employers, we look forward to engaging with policy makers and other stakeholders, to help better safeguard the privacy of our users.”
The senators said they are drafting a bill to fill in any gaps that current laws don’t cover.
“In an age where more and more of our personal information — and our private social interactions — are online, it is vital that all individuals be allowed to determine for themselves what personal information they want to make public and protect personal information from their would-be employers,” Schumer said in a statement. “This is especially important during the job-seeking process, when all the power is on one side of the fence.”
The senators also want to know whether two court cases relating to supervisors asking current employees for social media credentials could be applied to job applicants.
“I think it’s going to take some years for courts to decide whether Americans in the digital age have the same privacy rights” as previous generations, said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Catherine Crump in a previous interview with the AP.
Phoot: Attorney General Eric Holder