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Employment, Hot Topics - News, Law, Social Media

Update on Employers asking for Facebook Passwords

Facebook on Friday warned employers about trying to gain inappropriate access to Facebook accounts to check out private information about potential employees, citing possible legal liability.

In recent months, Facebook has seen a “distressing increase” of reports about employers trying to access user accounts in the U.S., Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, said in a post. “The most alarming of these practices is the reported incidences of employers asking prospective or actual employees to reveal their passwords.”

A user should never be forced to share private information just to get a job, she added. According to Facebook, these practices undermine the privacy expectations and the security of users’ and their friends’ accounts. Employers who ask job applicants if they can log in to their Facebook accounts or reveal log-in credentials are potentially subject to unanticipated legal liability, Egan warned.

Facebook announced it has changed itsStatement of Rights and Responsibilities, making requests to share or solicit a Facebook log-in a violation of the social networks’ rules. Egan also cited possible legal action from Facebook against violators of these rules: “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.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stated on Tuesday that employers asking for Facebook log-in credentials are out of bounds and are invading people’s privacy. ACLU attorney Catherine Crump emphasized on the ACLU website that asking for someone’s password is equal to asking job applicants to open their postal mail to get a job.

Crump made this remark in reply to an Associated Press report about a job applicant who was asked to log in to his Facebook wall, to show the interviewer his private profile.

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com.


 It seemed Friday morning as if Facebook came out with guns blazing, aiming for employers who required applicants or employees to surrender their log-in information. Now there’s a softening of that position, a clarification.

Privacy chief Erin Egan originally wrote, toward the end of her statement: “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.”

A decidedly more conciliatory approach was just sent to me by a Facebook spokesperson. They went from “initiating legal action” to a “engaging with policy makers and other stakeholders.”

Here’s the statement: “We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think it’s right the thing to do. 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 Justice Department had said during recent congressional testimony that while entering a social networking site in violation of the terms of service is considered a federal crime, it would not prosecute for such violations.

Earlier this week, 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.


Two German privacy watchdogs are not satisfied with Facebook’s new privacy guidelines, saying that users get more duties instead of more rights, and that the social network still violates German and European privacy laws. Read the rest here



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