Facebook and Employers

April 4th, 2012
in econ_news

Econintersect:  In prowling around the internet the GEI News staff came across a site entitled “Progressive Change Campaign Committee” facebook-iconSMALL(boldprogressives.org).  It appears to be a campaign support site for Elizabeth Warren and a number of other congressional candidates.  But that is not what led us there - We got there by following a link that said something about Facebook privacy.  The link landed us on a page promoting a petition seeking Justice Department action to stop employers from requiring job applicants to provide Facebook (and other social networking sites) passwords.  This is not something that we had seen in the news stream we follow so we decided to dig deeper.

Follow up:

It turns out GEI News is late to the story.  Five days ago Michelle Singletary had a piece in the Washington Post Business pages that discussed this.  From that article:

As part of the hiring process, some job applicants are being asked by some prospective employers to submit their usernames and passwords so that the employers can access their Facebook accounts to see what the applicants have posted online, reports the Associated Press.

The article quotes Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor:

It’s akin to requiring someone’s house keys.” He called such a request “an egregious privacy violation.”

Apparently the list of companies and organizations demanding access to applicant and employee social media accounts is growing.  See Michael Santo’s April 2 story at Examiner.com.

There have been efforts in various legislative bodies to enact laws that will address this privacy issue concern.  Megan Garber writes at The Atlantic:

Last week, Representative Ed Perlmutter, Democrat from Colorado, proposed an amendment toH.R. 3309, the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act of 2012, in reaction to news of employers, prospective and otherwise, demanding the passwords of employees' social media accounts. The amendment, colorfully shorthanded "MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS ON PASSWORDS," would have prohibited employers from demanding workers' social networking usernames and passwords -- and would have allowed the FCC to intervene on behalf of employees and their privacy.

The privacy amendment was voted down one day after proposed almost entirely along party lines.  So much for the Libertarian wing of the Republican Party.

Garber goes on to describe a couple of court cases that may determine if existing laws protect internet communication privacy.

John Lounsbury



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