Senator vows to stop employers asking for your Facebook password

Senator vows to stop employers asking for your Facebook password

Summary: Senator Richard Blumenthal is drafting legislation to stop employers asking for your Facebook password. He believes the law is required to stop the "unreasonable invasion of privacy."

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Update: Facebook: No plans to sue employers asking for your password

Facebook today outlined how it wants to protect its users from employers demanding access to their accounts. The company is looking to create new laws as well as take legal action against employers. Senator Richard Blumenthal is one step ahead: he's already drafting legislation.

Blumenthal is working on a new bill that specifically bans the practice of employers asking current and prospective employees for their Facebook passwords. The Connecticut Democrat and former state attorney general says that these kind of requests are an "unreasonable invasion of privacy for people seeking work" – the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the same thing.

"I am very deeply troubled by the practices that seem to be spreading voraciously around the country," Blumenthal told Politico. He added that an "employer has a lot of ways to find out information" about potential new employees.

Blumenthal said his bill will have exceptions, including some federal and local law enforcement agencies, as well as national security departments. That being said, he plans to include private companies with government contracts for highly classified work.

Although Facebook didn't explicitly say so, the company is likely supporting Blumenthal. After all, sharing or soliciting a Facebook password is a violation of the social network's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

"Facebook takes your privacy seriously," Facebook Chief Privacy Officer for Policy Erin 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."

I have contacted Facebook about Blumenthal's bill and will update you if I hear back.

Update at 3:25 PM PST: Facebook declined to comment on the bill.

Update: Facebook: No plans to sue employers asking for your 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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16 comments
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  • Yes, but is it unreasonable?

    If you want to be sure it stays private, don't put it out there. You DO have a choice. If you brag about misdeeds and questionable acts/opinions on Facebook, you are an IDIOT.
    D.T.Long
    • Extremely unreasonable.

      It's extremely unreasonable. It's like your employer asking for the keys to your house.

      It bypasses privacy controls, and furthermore allows your employer to impersonate you, as well as to edit content under your control. Your employer could even lock you out of your own account if they have your password.
      CobraA1
      • Red herrings.

        Presumably read only access would be just fine. If I am going to hire you, I would like to know you who REALLY are, and not who you pretend to be. Facebook may give a pretty good picture of your personality and character, which are highly relevant to a prospective employer.

        If you want privacy, don't put stuff on the web. Full stop.

        As for me, I do not have a Facebook account and have no plans of getting one. Employers will find NOTHING.
        D.T.Long
      • Keys to your house

        Don't tempt them... that'll be next. Then they'll want to rifle through your postal mail. Then they'll want to sequence your DNA.

        I say if you want to operate a for-profit business and make money off the deeds and work of others, you can be asked to play by a few rules in return. And it's not at all unreasonable for one of those rules to be "you can't violate prospective employees privacy in any way you choose."

        Employers had no trouble doing background checks on prospective employees before the advent of Facebook and without demanding the keys to their kingdoms. They don't need it now. There are limits to how much extortion people can be asked to take in the name of getting a job.
        spatula6
      • A passoword is complete access, not read only.

        "Presumably read only access would be just fine."

        The password grants full, complete access. Not read only access. [b]There is no system in place for making a Facebook account "read only" using the user's password.[/b]

        "If I am going to hire you, I would like to know you who REALLY are, and not who you pretend to be."

        How about actually going through the list of references you asked me to send you, and doing a background check?

        And to be honest, just because an employer wants the information does not mean the employer is entitled to the information or even legally allowed to access the information. I still find this new practice to be highly questionable ethically, and I firmly believe this is a total violation of the integrity of any business participating in this practice.

        No, I do not believe that businesses should be given a free pass to be able to do everything they want to do. Sorry. I firmly believe that integrity and ethical behavior should be a priority for every business.

        "If you want privacy, don't put stuff on the web. Full stop."

        If you want to peer into private lives, join the FBI. Full stop.

        I totally understand the web is more public than people realize, but I don't think that's a valid excuse to intentionally circumvent privacy controls when websites have them.
        CobraA1
      • @D.T. Long

        [b]Presumably read only access would be just fine.[/b]

        How? Once one gives their password over then that's it, it's all out there. Not only things that are posted for "Friends only" but private messages sent to other FB users, private (meaning "Me Only" access) photos, the whole shooting match. And I'll be damned if I'm going to reduce my privacy settings so everyone can read my FB. [b]

        If I am going to hire you, I would like to know you who REALLY are, and not who you pretend to be. Facebook may give a pretty good picture of your personality and character, which are highly relevant to a prospective employer.[/b]

        That's why there is an applicant vetting process including an application which has a work history and references, a background check, an interview... last time I checked what I do on MY time off is MY business and no one else's - except for those who may or may not be involved.[b]

        If you want privacy, don't put stuff on the web. Full stop.[/b]

        My challenge to you concerning this is above. Take it or not at your discretion but when privacy settings are set to "Friends only" then the ONLY people seeing anything on one's FB page are people approved by the FB page's owner. I look at it this way - If I want a prospective or current - or past - employer to see something I'll put it on my LinkedIn page... THAT is my business related social networking page. And if my employer does a web search on me then fine, it's fair game what he or she gets but I'm damned sure nothing from FB will show up on that search.[b]

        As for me, I do not have a Facebook account and have no plans of getting one. Employers will find NOTHING.[/b]

        Employers will find NOTHING on a properly secured Facebook page either - at least NOT without the password to that page which is what they are asking for here. Connect the dots dude.
        athynz
      • Connecting the dots and a firm grasp on the obvious

        Yes, you are connecting the trivial dots very well indeed, but cannot even see the bigger picture dots.

        You being a deviant in your private life would certainly be relevant to my hiring decision, whether you like it or not.

        And I don't even need to ask you for your PW. If you do not volunteer it, your application will be filed in that round "filing cabinet" on the floor. If you have relevant secrets that you post on the web, but are trying to hide from me, you have zero chance of getting hired.

        And try proving that I broke the law when I say another candidate was simply more qualified and a better fit. Good luck trying to force your way into MY company. Soon, all companies will find ways of getting the information they need. You put the stuff out there and I want to know. Happy job hunting.

        I guess you will ask for affirmative action - a certain percentage MUST be hired without disclosing certain information? Nice try and welcome to the unemployment lines. Besides, the companies will bribe the lawmakers anyway to get what they want and the US cannot remain competitive internationally by hiring misfits like you.

        Edit: And it is NOT about the PW. You volunteering to log in in my presence would do just fine thank you, even if you missed that dot too.
        D.T.Long
      • Bank Account Password Please

        A politician using his power for good instead of evil? :o

        @D.T.Long
        In that case, it's not unreasonable for a prospective employee to demand the user name and password to your bank account.
        It's only to check that you can actually pay their wages.
        lehnerus2000
      • @D.T. Long - again

        ZDNet ate my last response to you so let's try this again... and ZDNet - let's actually FIX this talkback issue this time - the voting bells and whistles are great when they work but when one cannot post there is an issue.[b]

        Yes, you are connecting the trivial dots very well indeed, but cannot even see the bigger picture dots.[/b]

        I see the bigger picture much better than you do apparently... the bigger picture is NOT what is right or wrong for the company but the right of a private citizen to his or her privacy. You seem to be preaching that an employer has the right to be able to dig into a prospective employee's life and that is not the case.[b]

        You being a deviant in your private life would certainly be relevant to my hiring decision, whether you like it or not.[/b]

        You base me being a deviant based on what exactly? That I am unwilling to give anyone my FB login credentials? Here's what you do not understand - likely because you are not involved in any sort of hiring process - is that the resume, the application, the background check, the first interview, the second interview are all designed to weed out the undesirable, the unqualified, and those who are desirable and qualified are just not a good fit for the team.[b]

        And I don't even need to ask you for your PW. If you do not volunteer it, your application will be filed in that round "filing cabinet" on the floor. If you have relevant secrets that you post on the web, but are trying to hide from me, you have zero chance of getting hired.[/b]

        Like I said before anything that an HR department can find on me via a Google search is fair game. I keep my FB locked down because it is personal. I keep my LinkedIn open because it is business. And I'm sure as he11 will not "volunteer" my FB login credentials to anyone so if my applications winds up in "file 13" because I will not divulge my password then so be it - that is a company I'd rather not work for to begin with.[b]

        And try proving that I broke the law when I say another candidate was simply more qualified and a better fit. Good luck trying to force your way into MY company. Soon, all companies will find ways of getting the information they need. You put the stuff out there and I want to know. Happy job hunting.[/b]

        Again there is the entire vetting process that I described above which gives a company all the information about a potential employee that they need. And as I said above a company that attempts to force it's way into my private life is no company I want to work for - or do any sort of business with. And given the push for this sort of law there are a lot of people that feel the same way.[b]

        I guess you will ask for affirmative action - a certain percentage MUST be hired without disclosing certain information? Nice try and welcome to the unemployment lines. Besides, the companies will bribe the lawmakers anyway to get what they want and the US cannot remain competitive internationally by hiring misfits like you.[/b]

        LOL First you label me a deviant now a misfit because I feel that by law I am entitled by right to a private life of my own away from work and I exercise that right by not divulging passwords to private social networking sites and private email. Let me put this shoe on the other foot - IF you have the "right" to my FB password then I have the right to YOUR password, my potential manager's password, my potential CEO's password - in fact I have the right to the passwords of every person who can make a decision that has the potential to affect me as an employee as the vetting process goes both ways. I want to know if the decision makers are deviants in their personal lives... it's only fair. What, does THAT not work for you? You say you do not have a FB page - okay I want your personal email password instead. I can't have that? Why not? After all I want to make sure you are not some deviant misfit.[b]

        Edit: And it is NOT about the PW. You volunteering to log in in my presence would do just fine thank you, even if you missed that dot too.[/b]

        That dot was preconnected - "volunteering" to log into my personal and private FB page is the same in many respects as giving up my password. Anything a company can get from a Google search is fair game but I will not volunteer any information I deem to be personal.
        athynz
    • Whu?

      What the heck does that have to do with an employer demanding your private passwords? I don't give a *&%$& why they want my private passwords... the CAN'T HAVE THEM!
      dsf3g
    • So you would be okay with them going through your mail?

      How about digging through the files on your computer? Letting them do a full search of your house before employment? It's the same thing.
      Aerowind
    • Completely unreasonable

      It's like an employer asking me for my personal email password. As for my employer or potential employers being able to access my Facebook page, that's not happening with my privacy settings set the way they are. I suspect that is the case with a lot more people than you realize - with no easy way for an employer to see his employee's Facebook page or a potential employee's Facebook page then they decided to get more aggressive and go to the source to allow them in.

      Tell ya what, let's put it to the test. Find my Facebook page and post my latest status update here - if you can. IF you can do that, you'll be the man. I'm not holding my breath.
      athynz
    • @D.T.

      "If you do not volunteer it, your application will be filed in that round 'filing cabinet' on the floor."

      If your competition will hire me without peering into my Facebook pages, did I really lose anything?

      You lost an employee because you think that bypassing privacy controls is a good thing. I gained an employer that understands the words "privacy" and "integrity."

      Acceptable risk.

      "If you have relevant secrets that you post on the web, but are trying to hide from me, you have zero chance of getting hired."

      Yeah - you don't really get it. Facebook is a social network, usually among friends and family. The chances of having something relevant to work on Facebook are pretty slim, so I don't even know why you want to pry into it.

      "You being a deviant in your private life would certainly be relevant to my hiring decision, whether you like it or not."

      Excellent, then you don't need access to our Facebook pages.

      "And try proving that I broke the law when I say another candidate was simply more qualified and a better fit."

      If Richard Blumenthal's legislation passes, that won't be a problem. It won't matter if you keep mum about why you didn't hire us, merely asking for the password will be enough.

      Indeed, I'd like you to know that any company that tells me [i]why[/i] they didn't hire me gains a lot of respect, and I am likely to speak well of them even if they don't hire me.

      I am a firm believer in open communications when it's relevant, and not everything on Facebook about me is private. Usually the private things are just stuff that I think isn't relevant outside of a certain circle of family or friends.

      But I do understand some people like having more privacy, and I respect that. So yes, I will stand up for those who want to remain private.
      CobraA1
  • Good legislation

    As a conservative, it's not often I agree with a democrats proposal. But I give Senator Blumenthal Kudos for this Legislation. Employers should have limitations on what prospective employees are required to give. Asking for a facebook (or any other personal login information) should be illegal.
    dobson67
  • Do as we say, not as we do

    Don't you just love it when the government promises to protect you from everyone... except the government? There will be exceptions, you see. This agency here, that agency there, the bureau of public works, the Senator's office, and so on.

    It's already the case that most of the "employers" asking for these passwords are government agencies. Yet everyone assumes otherwise, and the Senator promises to fix the problem we don't have, but ignore the problem we do, all to great praise.
    Robert Hahn
  • It's not just about inappropriate posts

    I work in education, so I certainly don't put anything inappropriate on my Facebook page. However, I use Facebook to connect with my family long distance so I talk about my kids, send updates via messages about how they are doing, etc. What if a potential employer looked at my Facebook and said, "Hmm, she has kids and then snooped through my messages and found they had both had the flu recently." Even without knowing whether or not I have backup childcare, I may be out of a potential job. There is a reason that employers can't ask about marriage, age, kids, race, etc. Asking for Facebook passwords allows them to get around the rules because, for better or worse, people do post a lot of that protected information on social media site.
    oldnvgrl22