Proposed Amendment to Prevent Employers from Asking for Facebook Usernames/Passwords Fails
March 29, 2012 1:31 PM
Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter
In a final vote of 236 to 184, the amendment was put to rest
A new Facebook user protection amendment that would stop employers from asking for applicants' social networking usernames and passwords was rejected in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The amendment was proposed earlier this week by Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter. The amendment would have added to section H.R. 3309, the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act of 2012. This would allow the FCC to step in if employers were to ask for online social networking information.
The following paragraph would have been added to section H.R. 3309:
SEC. 5. PROTECTING THE PASSWORDS OF ONLINE USERS.
Nothing in this Act or any amendment made by this Act shall be construed to limit or restrict the ability of the Federal Communications Commission to adopt a rule or to amend an existing rule to protect online privacy, including requirements in such rule that prohibit licensees or regulated entities from mandating that job applicants or employees disclose confidential passwords to social networking web sites.
However, the proposed amendment failed quickly. In a final vote of 236 to 184, the amendment was put to rest. Only one House Republican voted in favor of the amendment.
The proposed amendment came after a series of complaints from job and school applicants, who were either asked to surrender their usernames and passwords to their social networking sites or asked to log on to these sites in front of their potential employers.
Earlier this month, it was discovered that current employees and
applicants to the Maryland Department of Corrections were asked to give their emails and passwords
for their Facebook pages to their employer/interviewer. One of the corrections officers, Robert Collins, went to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to complain, and the ACLU ended this practice. However, the Maryland Department of Corrections now just asks employees to log on right in front of them.
The University of North Carolina is another example of an institution that searched social networks for information on those they were accepting. It even
revised its handbook to make it so student-athletes must add a coach or administrator to their friends list on their social networks.
People have an expectation of privacy when using social media like Facebook and Twitter," said Perlmutter. "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.”
Social networking-related privacy issues don't end there, though. Earlier this week, an Indiana high school student was
expelled for tweeting profanity during non-school hours
. Reports say the tweet was posted at 2:30 a.m., which is clearly outside of school hours, but the school insists that the student tweeted the foul language while on school property.
While this particular amendment was shot down, the Republicans agreed to work with the Democrats on new legislation at some point.
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