Demanding Facebook Passwords May Be Illegal, Senators Warn Bosses.

Two U.S. senators asked federal agencies Monday to look into whether employers and colleges that are asking for access to individual Facebook profiles are breaking the law.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., made the request along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal D-Conn., who last week said he’s writing legislation that would outlaw employers from requesting Facebook passwords. The issue was first reported by Bob Sullivan of’s Red Tape Chronicles three weeks ago.

On Monday, the senators asked the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate whether the practice violates federal laws — specifically, the  Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and the the Stored Communications Act (SCA).

As the senators wrote to the DOJ:

We urge the DOJ to investigate whether this practice violates the Stored Communication Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The SCA prohibits intentional access to electronic information without authorization or intentionally exceeding that authorization, 18 U.S.C. § 2701, and the CFAA prohibits intentional access to a computer without authorization to obtain information, 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2)(C). Requiring applicants to provide login credentials to secure social media websites and then using those credentials to access private information stored on those sites may be unduly coercive and therefore constitute unauthorized access under both SCA and the CFAA.

“Employers have no right to ask job applicants for their house keys or to read their diaries – why should they be able to ask them for their Facebook passwords and gain unwarranted access to a trove of private information about what we like, what messages we send to people, or who we are friends with?” Schumer said in a statement.

Like Blumenthal, Schumer cited how job seekers may feel obligated to give up access to their Facebook accounts or other personal information in order to get the job.

“Facebook agrees, and I’m sure most Americans agree, that employers have no business asking for your Facebook password,” Schumer added, refrencing Facebook’s official statement on the practice.

On Friday, Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer on policy, decried  the practice of employers asking for access to Facebook accounts. She went on to say that such requests are a direct violation of Facebook’s terms of service and “it also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability.”   Source/Credit to Helen A.S. Popkin for


Posted on March 26, 2012, in Employee Relations and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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