A number of recent reports of employers asking potential recruits for their Facebook passwords, or asking potential hires to log into their Facebook account, and literally peeping over their shoulders as they go through Wall posts, photos and other material, have seriously concerned California employment lawyers. Now, lawmakers are taking these concerns seriously too.
Two lawmakers, New York Senatir Charles Schumer and Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal have asked the Department of Justice to conduct an investigation into whether the practice of asking for Facebook passwords constitutes a breach of federal laws. The senators want the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate whether this unethical practice violates the provisions of the Consumer Fraud and Abuse Act or the Stored Communications Act.
More and more employers are engaging in what is also known as ‘shoulder surfing.’ Employers may ask a candidate to log into his or her Facebook account, and scan photos, posts, comments and other material that they would normally not be able to access because of privacy controls.
Earlier this year, it was reported that the Maryland Department of Corrections had frequently employed ‘shoulder surfing’ practices to screen candidates. Now, Maryland has become the first state in the union to prohibit employers from asking for Facebook passwords from their potential employees. The American Civil Liberties Union has also come down strongly on the practice.
Employees who are required to make their personal information on Facebook available to their potential employer can be subjected to discrimination. There’s much that a potential employer can see on your Facebook Wall that can prejudice him against you. For instance, employers can discern your religious and political views through the groups that you are a member of, and these can be used to discriminate against you.