Sen Schumer Calls On Justice Department To Launch Facebook Probe

SEATTLE (AP) –Two U.S. senators are asking Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether employers asking for Facebook passwords during job interviews are violating federal law, their offices announced Sunday.

Troubled by reports of the practice, Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said they are calling on the Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to launch investigations. The senators are sending letters to the heads of the agencies.

The Associated Press reported last week that some private and public agencies around the country are asking job seekers for their social media credentials. The practice has alarmed privacy advocates, but the legality of it remains murky.

On Friday, Facebook warned employers not to ask job applicants for their passwords to the site so they can poke around on their profiles. The company threatened legal action against applications that violate its long-standing policy against sharing passwords.

A Facebook executive cautioned that if an employer discovers that a job applicant is a member of a protected group, the employer may be vulnerable to claims of discrimination if it doesn’t hire that person.

Personal information such as gender, race, religion and age are often displayed on a Facebook profile, all details that are protected by federal employment law.

“We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think it’s the right 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,” Facebook said in a statement.

Not sharing passwords is a basic tenet of online conduct. Aside from the privacy concerns, Facebook considers the practice a security risk.

“In an age where more and more of our personal information _ and our private social interactions _ are online, it is vital that all individuals be allowed to determine for themselves what personal information they want to make public and protect personal information from their would-be employers. This is especially important during the job-seeking process, when all the power is on one side of the fence,” Schumer said in a statement.

Specifically, the senators want to know if this practice violates the Stored Communications Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Those two acts, respectively, prohibit intentional access to electronic information without authorization and intentional access to a computer without authorization to obtain information.

The senators also want to know whether two court cases relating to supervisors asking current employees for social media credentials could be applied to job applicants.

“I think it’s going to take some years for courts to decide whether Americans in the digital age have the same privacy rights” as previous generations, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Catherine Crump said in a previous interview with the AP.

The senators also said they are drafting a bill to fill in any gaps that current laws don’t cover.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • Jimmy

    Nowhere have I seen a specific employer identified.

  • The Realist

    What if somebody CHOOSES NOT TO HAVE a Facebook account? Is that person permanently banned from all employment?

  • NYCsewer

    why does this Jewish senator only come out with news on Sunday ?

    • The Realist

      Sundays are typically “slow news days” when nobody else will be competing for media attention.

  • riccarrdo estavans

    Senator Schmuck schumser should be investigated for treason.

    • The Realist


  • Scott

    You can count your friends on one hand. And that is if your lucky. Most of those people on your facebook page are not your friends and deep down you know that is the truth. So, you have to ask yourself, do you want to be social or do you want to have a job and a career? For me, I would rather have a job so the few friends I have I don’t need facebook to have in my life. Far from it.

  • VL

    What the hell does Facebook have to do with a person’s job qualifications? And it’s bad enough they go look themselves, but now they want access to your personal account. That means they can go read your messages to your friends and everything. That’s not close to being OK. What I have on my FB page is for my friends, not my employer.

    I say, if you want access to mine, give me access to every officer and supervisor in the company’s FB page and let me decide, based on their personal lives, if I want to work for them.

    • jtswife

      what does your credit score have to do with being able to do a job but they are allowed to check that? NOT OK AT ALL

  • dakotahgeo

    The corporations need to be put on immediate notice… NO interference of private information other than the application form, subject to a heavy lawsuit for millions for invasion of privacy! End of discussion!

    • jtswife

      thats right!!

  • Arlene Neumann

    My ex lost a franchise business, our savings, our car, our home, bankrupted and left me, now I can’t get a job! They want access to my FB account now, too? That’s like knocking on my door and demanding access to my closets! UNacceptable!

    • jtswife

      I am so sorry, I also am unemployed and have applied for many jobs and nothing!!
      It is unacceptable and hope these senators can change things.

      • Arlene Neumann

        Thank you. Best of luck in the future. This society has spiraled out of “control!” (There’s a backward comment if I ever stated one)!

        • jtswife

          New world order thats what is down the line

  • jtswife

    is nothing sacred anymore? Its bad enough an employer can check your credit history and score but where is a line drawn?

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