March 26, 2012 at 1:29 PM ET
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'swriting legislation that would outlaw employers from requesting Facebook passwords. The issue was first reported by Bob Sullivan of msnbc.com'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 thepractice violates federal laws -- specifically, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and the the Stored Communications Act (SCA).
We urge the DOJ toinvestigate whether this practice violates the Stored Communication Act or theComputer Fraud and Abuse Act. The SCA prohibits intentional access toelectronic information without authorization or intentionally exceeding thatauthorization, 18 U.S.C. § 2701, and the CFAA prohibits intentional access to acomputer without authorization to obtain information, 18 U.S.C. §1030(a)(2)(C). Requiring applicants to provide login credentials to securesocial media websites and then using those credentials to access privateinformation stored on those sites may be unduly coercive and thereforeconstitute unauthorized access under both SCA and the CFAA.
"Employers have no right to ask job applicants fortheir house keys or to read their diaries – why should they be able to ask themfor their Facebook passwords and gain unwarranted access to a trove of privateinformation about what we like, what messages we send to people, or who we arefriends with?" Schumer said in a statement.
Like Blumenthal, Schumer cited how job seekers may feelobligated to give up access to their Facebook accounts or other personalinformation 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 onpolicy, decried the practice ofemployers asking for access to Facebook accounts. She went on to say that suchrequests are a direct violation of Facebook's terms of service and "italso potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipatedlegal liability."