United States House representatives from the Republican party turned down an effort by Democrats to pass a law which protects employers from demanding access to their employees and jobseeker Facebook accounts.
The amendment would have prohibited employers to ask for personal passwords from current employees or job applicants as part of keeping or receiving a new job position.
Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter introduced the proposal to the Federal Communications Commisison Reform act in the house which would have permitted the FCC to stop employers to give their staff and prospective staff passwords to their Facebook accounts
"What this amendment does is it says that you cannot demand, as a condition of employment, that somebody reveal a confidential password to their Facebook, to their Flickr, to their Twitter, whatever their account may be," said Perlmutter during a speech yesterday."People have an expectation of privacy when using social media like Facebook and Twitter. They have an expectation that their right to free speech and religion will be respected when they use social media outlets. No American should have to provide their confidential passwords as a condition of employment," said Perlmutter.
Perlmutter explained that employer access to such private information can have negative outcomes.
"Employers essentially can act as impostors and assume the identity of an employee and continually access, monitor and even manipulate an employee’s personal social activities and opinions. That’s simply a step too far," Perlmutter said.
The republicans, however, were not convinced and the amendment was defeated by a vote of 236 to 185. Only one republican sided with the majority of Democrats that voted for the motion.
In Congress, two U.S. senators are still moving for an investigation as to whether the practice of employers asking for access to job applicant and employee Facebook accounts is against federal law.
Senator Blumenthal and Schumer have requested the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) begin a federal investigation into whether employers demanding interviewee usernames and passwords to social networking sites and email accounts are a violation of federal law.
"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?" said Schumer. "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," he added.
Schulmer also pointed out that launching an investigation is important to do before the practice becomes widespread.
"Facebook agrees, and I’m sure most Americans agree, that employers have no business asking for your Facebook password," he said.
The senators expressed concerns in their letter to the EEOC, stating that employers will have complete access to private and protected information that could cause them unlawfully to discriminate against otherwise qualified applicants.
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