House votes down stopping employers asking for Facebook passwords

House votes down stopping employers asking for Facebook passwords

Summary: An amendment that would have banned employers demanding access to Facebook accounts was defeated in the House by a vote of 236 to 184. It can always return as separate legislation.

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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.

Here is the addition that House Democrats proposed (PDF), which would have allowed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to stop any employers who asked employees or applicants for their Facebook credentials:

SEC. 5. PROTECTING THE PASSWORDS OF ONLINE USERS.

Nothing in this Act or any amendment made by this Act shall be construed to limit or restrict the ability of the Federal Communications Commission to adopt a rule or to amend an existing rule to protect online privacy, including requirements in such rule that prohibit licensees or regulated entities from mandating that job applicants or employees disclose confidential passwords to social networking web sites.

Colorado Democrat Representative Ed Perlmutter explained the problem when proposing the amendment:

People have an expectation of privacy when using social media like Facebook and Twitter. They have an expectation that their right to free speech and religion will be respected when they use social media outlets. No American should have to provide their confidential personal passwords as a condition of employment. Both users of social media and those who correspond share the expectation of privacy in their personal communications. Employers essentially can act as imposters and assume the identity of an employee and continually access, monitor and even manipulate an employee’s personal social activities and opinions. That's simply a step too far.

Oregon Republican Representative Greg Walden responded to Perlmutter during the floor debate by saying:

I think it's awful that employers think they can demand our passwords and can go snooping around. There is no disagreement with that. Here is the flaw: Your amendment doesn't protect them. It doesn't do that. Actually, what this amendment does is say that all of the reforms that we are trying to put in place at the Federal Communications Commission, in order to have them have an open and transparent process where they are required to publish their rules in advance so that you can see what they're proposing, would basically be shoved aside. They could do whatever they wanted on privacy if they wanted to, and you wouldn't know it until they published their text afterward. There is no protection here.

The amendment, which was added to a larger FCC reform package, was defeated on Wednesday by a vote of 236 to 184. The underlying bill was approved by a vote of 247 to 174, but has not cleared the U.S. Senate. Republicans are not convinced the amendment is necessary, but did say they would be open to addressing the issue in separate legislation.

Facebook on Friday stirred up quite the storm when it outlined how it wants to protect its users from employers demanding access to their accounts. Remember: sharing or soliciting a Facebook password is a violation of the social network's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

Menlo Park said it is looking to create new laws as well as take legal action wherever necessary. The social networking giant did clarify, however, that it currently has no plans to sue employers.

This was followed by two U.S. senators on Sunday calling for an investigation to determine whether employers are violating federal law. The duo sent letters to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to see whether the practice violates the Stored Communications Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The former prohibits intentional access to electronic information without authorization and the latter bars intentional access to a computer without authorization to obtain information. In the meantime, one of the senators is already drafting legislation to stop employers asking for your Facebook password.

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Topic: Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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27 comments
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  • Facebook TOS

    http://www.facebook.com/legal/terms

    Section 4 - Registration and Account Security

    #8 - You will not share your password, (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.

    So, a prospective or current employer can force you to violate their TOS ? Sounds reasonable. If you want to work for me I need the logins to your bank, any investments, in fact just give me credentials to everything you use. It's for your own good, believe me....
    dev/null
  • No Surprise Here

    Republicans voting against legislation that helps the common man - SOP for them. Come on. Although, at this point, I don't really think we need a law. If any employer asks for any personal passwords, tell them to f off.
    jpr75_z
    • tell them to f off

      I agree with you, but this isn't always an option. Believe you me, that would be my first response too. However, if you're desperate for a job to put food on the table, then you will do whatever it takes, including giving up your privacy. It should not be like that.
      Empro
    • While...

      while making sure the law covers this could be a good thing... the republicans were not wrong in this situation. That is a poorly written amendment giving too much power to the FCC. Rushing through things isn't the best way to get good laws.
      doh123
    • Errr....

      Quit your job [assuming you have one] and then when at an interview, tell the interviewee to "f-off" if asked for a Facebook password. Kiss that job goodbye.
      Gisabun
    • Really?

      According the the article, "Republicans are not convinced the amendment is necessary, but did say they would be open to addressing the issue in separate legislation.'

      And you said, "Although, at this point, I don't really think we need a law."

      So why bring politics into it? :-)

      I wouldn't give up my userid/password; however, I'm not sure the FCC is an appropriate guardian of our privacy. I probably would not have voted for the bill as presented.

      Now for my stereotypical comment. It's a typical government move to jump into things on which they have little knowledge with a solution that makes little sense.
      Deacon336
  • One question for these guys and gals...Why?

    Why did they vote it down?

    Pagan jim
    James Quinn
    • Money

      And greed.

      'Nuff said.
      ScorpioBlack
    • because...

      because it needs to be re-written in a better way without us having to put blind faith in the FCC to hope they do the right thing.
      doh123
      • But.....

        Meanwhile the Republicans didn't come out with any suggestions to fix it. So they are basically against it.
        Gisabun
    • Before making self-righteous comments...

      that make you look stupid, RTFA!!!!
      Media Whore
    • Hehehe....

      Republican controlled. Wondering how many of them heard of Facebook.
      [Republicans, with a majority in the house, will probably shoot down anything Democrats propose from now until the election in November. A lame duck administration.]
      Gisabun
    • Why vote it down?

      Clearly stated in the article... Did you read it?
      MCGJr
    • Sell votes

      Good day everyone,
      I am selling Facebook VOTES and Facebook LIKES.
      Also available social media marketing service:-
      * Facebook
      * Twitter
      * YouTube
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      If you need any service then contact with me. This is a guaranteed service.
      Skype: rasel.miah55
      votesseller
  • GOP SOP

    Republicans helping out the "poor defenceless megacorps" yet gain.

    The Democrats proposed it, so the Republicans have to vote against it, what choice did they have? ;)
    lehnerus2000
  • The truth is a better version

    "House Republicans today defeated an amendment introduced yesterday that would have banned employers demanding access to Facebook accounts"

    Mr. Protalinski this summary is absolutely dishonest but I think you know that already. This was about the FCC having the power to amend its own rules in order to create rules it sees fit to protect privacy. I know liberals love bashing big business and wealth creators (with the exception of Apple) in favor of granting blind power to big government, but why cant you be honest about the facts of the debate?

    Fact: This amendment would NOT have "banned employers from demanding access to Facebook accounts", it would have allowed the FCC to create rules that they believe are protecting online privacy without any process of transparency in crafting those rules.

    Regulating online privacy reaches far beyond social networking so we simply do not know what those rules could look like. This is another example of the Democrats willingness to pass the bill before we find out whats in it. No thanks!
    TechJunkiesCA
  • Solution to Employers asking for Facebook passwords

    There is finally a solution for employers and recruiters who are asking job seekers for their Facebook passwords in order to obtain additional information about potential employees. Any job seeker can now give prospective Employers their PEP (Potential Employee Profile) Code instead of their Facebook password. Their FREE PEP Code can be entered at: http://www.JobSeekerPEPCode.com and it enables employers to get the additional information they seek. This enables job seekers to post additional information about themselves, they want employers to know, that they would not normally put on their resume. More info also at: http://www.FREEPEPCode.com
    brod7
    • And I want them to have this information why?

      If I don't put it on my resume, and am not willing to share said information during an interview why would I give them access to this information? The thing is I'm looking for a job not their approval. I don't care if they like me or my thoughts, my faith (Or lack there for of), my politics.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
      • It's important to employers to KTPE (Know Their Potential Employee)

        Apparently, it is important to employers, that they know more about potential employees. Just like businesses place importance on KYC (Know Your Customer) practices, they want to know more about a person before establishing an employer-employee relationship. People always put their best foot forward on resumes and some even stretch the facts concerning their experiences and capabilities. Additional information that would not be normally found on a resume, gives employers better insight into who a person really is and how that person might be of benefit or not to their business. Although it is not good practice to ask for a person's personal Facebook password, at least the PEP Code and Potential Employee Profile page lets job seekers tell employers more about themselves aside from skills and experiences. True, there are job seekers who may not want to give additional information, but there are many that do and the Potential Employee Profile page lets them control what additional information employers have access to. There's more about how the whole process benefits BOTH job seekers and employers at: http://www.JobSeekerPEPCode.com or http://www.FREEPEPCode.com
        brod7
  • Hm...

    the fact that Rep. Walden didn't reject the idea out of hand (only the specific proposal) is hopeful. I think it would be worthwhile for Reps Walden and Perlmutter to sit down together and come up with something both think will be effective and acceptable.
    John L. Ries