Facebook Condemns Practice Of Employers Demanding Employee Passwords

Facebook Condemns Practice Of Employers Demanding Employee Passwords

In response to the controversy surrounding the practice of employers requesting Facebook log-in information from both current and prospective employees, the social network has made itself perfectly clear: Facebook will protect your privacy -- even if it means going to court.

In a March 23 note on the social network's Facebook and Privacy page, Chief Privacy Officer for Policy Erin Egan addressed the issue directly, explaining that the practice "undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user's friends. It also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability."

The "legal liability" of which Egan speaks could arise from claims of discrimination against an employer who may have seen that a prospective employee is part of a specific "protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.)" and consequently does not hire them, or if an employer is exposed to certain information (e.g. suggesting that a crime has been committed) and is unaware of how to proceed.

Futhermore, according to Sam Favate of the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog, it's still unclear whether the practice is entirely legal. Favate wrote on March 21:

The legality of the practice is questionable, and states such as Illinois and Maryland are considering legislation to forbid it. Giving someone your Facebook login information is a violation of the site's terms of service, and the Department of Justice considers it a federal crime to enter social media sites in violation of terms of service -- although recent congressional testimony indicates that such violations would not be prosecuted, AP noted.

The related Associated Press (AP) story to which Favate referred has caused quite a stir across the web and also spurred a firm response from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on March 22. Like Facebook, the ACLU views the practice of employers asking for social media log-in information as an invasion of privacy.

Only time will tell whether or not states will view it as such, too. The ACLU is pushing to pass a bill in Maryland that would "prohibit employers from requiring or requesting employees or applications to disclose their user names or passwords to Internet sites and Web-based accounts as a condition of employment." While some headway has been made with the issue in Illinois, legislation to prevent the practice is currently on hold.

Although the issue of employers demanding employees' log-in info remains questionable in some states, the practice is definitely wrong in the eyes of Facebook. As Egan concluded in her note:

Facebook takes your privacy seriously. 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....While we will continue to do our part, it is important that everyone on Facebook understands they have a right to keep their password to themselves, and we will do our best to protect that right.

How do you feel about Facebook's statement and about the issue as a whole? Let us know in the comments!

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