Should it be illegal for employers to ask prospective employees for their Facebook passwords? One U.S. Senator thinks so.
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) says he’s drafting a bill to ban the practice, and that it should be ready “in the near future.”
You might have heard about a rising trend within companies’ HR departments. It’s becoming common practice for some employers to request that applicants turn over their Facebook login information as a requirement for landing the job. Of course, this has ruffled the feathers of privacy activists and many Facebook users alike who say that this is an unprecedented invasion of privacy.
Employers have been using Facebook for a while now when it comes to researching job candidates. But that practice is usually limited to browsing their wall, photos, and posts from an outsiders perspective. Giving employers passwords lets them into the most private of your online data, where they could unearth things that the user had controlled with their privacy settings.
Many have pointed out that it’s not just a problem for employees, but employers as well. Digging around someone’s Facebook account could reveal information previously unknown to the employer. If any of that information happens to cause the employer to choose not to hire a candidate, and the information involved religion, race, or sexual orientation – the employer could get caught up in quite the discrimination suit.
Blumenthal told Politico that he was “deeply troubled by the practices that seem to be spreading voraciously around the country,” and that the password requests are an “unreasonable invasion of privacy.”
Apparently, the bill wouldn’t make it illegal to use information gained from public Facebook activity – the “outsider” stuff mentioned above. Employers could still use what they found looking at a prospective employee’s Facebook activity in their hiring considerations. It would just make the mandatory overturning of passwords a no-no.
Blumenthal’s not the only one to come out against this practice. Facebook, in a lengthy response on their Passwords and Privacy blog said that the practice was both “alarming” and “distressing.” They said that nobody should have to share private information to land a job, and that the trend of asking for these passwords “undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends.”