If anything's become clear in the last week, it's that many people really dislike the idea of employers extracting Facebook passwords from job applicants.
While profile-snooping isn't new (the city of Bozeman, Mont. routinely asked all job applicants for social media log-ins back in 2009), and probably isn't yet widespread (to date, only a handful of anecdotes have surfaced), news reports last week brought the practice to public attention.
The news reports also sparked a backlash, with critics rightly saying that employers who sought that kind of information had gone too far. The complaints grew loud enough that Facebook itself chimed in to remind people not to share their passwords. The company also reminded employers that they might violate anti-discrimination laws if they denied a job to an applicant after learning through Facebook that he or she belonged to a particular religious group, suffered from a medical condition, or otherwise was a member of a protected group.
Now two lawmakers, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), are asking the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate whether it's legal for employers to ask job applicants for Facebook passwords.
Specifically, Blumenthal and Schumer ask the DOJ to probe whether companies are violating the federal wiretap law or computer fraud law, which prohibit people from accessing computers without authorization. "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," the lawmakers say in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
The senators also ask EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien to investigate whether employers are asking for Facebook passwords in order to do an end-run around discrimination laws. "By requiring applicants to provide login credentials to social networking and email sites, employers will have access to private, protected information that may be impermissible to consider when making hiring decisions. We are concerned that this information may be used to unlawfully discriminate against otherwise qualified applicants," the letter states.