House Dems Offer Motion To Protect Password Privacy, GOP Defeats

There have been troubling reports recently of employers asking for prospective employees’ personal passwords for social networking websites like Facebook during interviews:

The Associated Press:

When Justin Bassett interviewed for a new job, he expected the usual questions about experience and references. So he was astonished when the interviewer asked for something else: his Facebook username and password.

Bassett, a New York City statistician, had just finished answering a few character questions when the interviewer turned to her computer to search for his Facebook page. But she couldn’t see his private profile. She turned back and asked him to hand over his login information.

Bassett refused and withdrew his application, saying he didn’t want to work for a company that would seek such personal information. But as the job market steadily improves, other job candidates are confronting the same question from prospective employers, and some of them cannot afford to say no.

In their efforts to vet applicants, some companies and government agencies are going beyond merely glancing at a person’s social networking profiles and instead asking to log in as the user to have a look around.


In Maryland, job seekers applying to the state’s Department of Corrections have been asked during interviews to log into their accounts and let an interviewer watch while the potential employee clicks through wall posts, friends, photos and anything else that might be found behind the privacy wall.

The blog last year showed what it said was an image of an application for a clerical job with a North Carolina police department that included the following question:

“Do you have any web page accounts such as Facebook, Myspace, etc.? If so, list your username and password.”

By being asked to disclose passwords to their personal social networking accounts, job seekers and others are put in the unfair position of having to choose between handing over private information and violating a website’s terms of service or forgoing a new job opportunity. Today, Rep. Perlmutter (D-CO) offered a Motion to Recommit on H.R. 3309 (Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act of 2012) to protect online privacy, saying:

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 personal passwords as a condition of employment. Both users of social media and those who correspond share the expectation of privacy in their personal communications. Employers essentially can act as imposters 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.

183 House Democrats voted in favor of protecting privacy and confidential passwords–however, because only one House Republican joined House Dems in voting aye, the motion was defeated.

Read the Motion to Recommit»