US senators seek probe into Facebook passwords and employers

26 Mar 2012

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Two US senators are reportedly planning to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether employers who ask for access to employees’ Facebook accounts are, in fact, violating federal law.

Last week, Facebook itself spoke out against employers who ask for job applicants’ Facebook passwords, making it a violation of its statement of rights and responsibilities.

In a blog post, Erin Egan, chief privacy officer of policy at Facebook, said the practice "undermines the privacy expectations and the security" of the user and their friends. Egan said Facebook users should never have to share their passwords with anyone else.

Yesterday, Zdnet.com reported that New York  Senator Charles Schumer and Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal were planning to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to look into whether employers are breaking federal law when they ask employees or future employees for passwords. And the two senators, who are both Democrats, have also apparently asked the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to take a look at the Facebook matter.

Blumenthal is also drafting a bill to make the practice illegal.

Zdnet.com reported that, more specifically, the two senators are seeking to establish whether the practice is a violation of the Stored Communications Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

"I am alarmed and outraged by rapidly and widely spreading employer practices seeking access to Facebook passwords or confidential information on other social networks," Blumenthal said in a statement.

"A ban on these practices is necessary to stop unreasonable and unacceptable invasions of privacy," he added.

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Carmel was a long-time reporter with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com