Want a job? Password, please! – Facebook Won’t Sue Employers for Privacy Infringements


House Republicans Votes Down Stopping employers asking for Facebook Passwords

“House Republicans today defeated an amendment introduced yesterday that would have banned employers demanding access to Facebook accounts. While the practice isn’t widespread, it has caused a big brouhaha after reports surfaced that some organizations were requiring workers to hand over Facebook passwords as a condition of keeping their current job or getting hired for a new one.”

Following up on my blog post from Monday titled: “Employer’s Asking for Facebook Credentials“,
I detailed an alarming situation in which there have been many reports of employers asking potential hires for their Facebook credentials in order to check their online interactions to use as a hiring factor.


Facebook stated that doing so not only undermines the privacy and security expectations of both the user and the user’s contacts, but exposes the employer to legal liability. Furthermore Facebook legal representatives have clearly stated that sharing or soliciting a user’s login credentials is in direct violation of their Statement of Rights & Responsibilities.

“If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password, let anyone access your account, or do anything that might jeopardize the security of your account or violate the privacy of your friends,” Facebook Chief Privacy Officer for Policy Erin Egan said in a statement. “We have worked really hard at Facebook to give you the tools to control who sees your information. 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.”

Initially it seemed that Facebook was considering legal action to protect its 845 million users by either getting politicians to pass a law stopping this practice, or outright suing employers shown to have asked persons to divulge their information.

“Facebook takes your privacy seriously,” Egan said in a 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. 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.”

Until this statement, the only advocacy group willing to protect Facebook users was the American Civil Liberties Association which has deemed these practices as an invasion of privacy and has released this video on YouTube called: “Want a job? Password, please!” in response. The video details the a scenario in which a corrections officer said he required to turn over his Facebook credential or risk failing recertification to that would allow him to work in the state’s prison system.

“It’s an invasion of privacy for private employers to insist on looking at people’s private Facebook pages as a condition of employment or consideration in an application process,” ACLU attorney Catherine Crump said in a statement. “People are entitled to their private lives. 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.”

In an updated statement, Erin Egan clarified their previous statement that while it wants to protect its users from employers demanding access to their accounts, they currently have no plans to sue any employers for any such actions.

“We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think its 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.”

While the practice of asking employees for private information has been occurring for a few years, it seems that recent events have helped to rekindle the controversy over online privacy and the need to protect the rights of individuals.

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