Facebook privacy chief Erin Egan has issued a stern statement regarding employers and prospective employers who ask individuals for their Facebook passwords. Egan cites a “distressing increase” in reports of individuals being asked to turn over their passwords or other Facebook account information to bosses, prospective employees and others.
Addressing users of the social networking site, Egan wrote, “This practice undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends,” and added, “If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password, let anyone access your account, or do anything that might jeopardize the security of your account or violate the privacy of your friends.”
Egan held out the possibility of Facebook taking legal action against organizations and individuals who attempt to coerce users into forfeiting their private information. She wrote that such action “potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability.”
She went on to provide a specific example of how an employer might quickly get more than it bargained for by accessing an applicant’s private information. “For example, if an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don’t hire that person.”
The Guardian cited recent statements by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and the ACLU regarding the practice of demanding access to individuals’ personal social media accounts.
Blumenthal said to Politico that these type of requests amount to an “unreasonable invasion of privacy”. The ACLU has become involved in the case of a Maryland Department of Corrections applicant who was ordered for reveal his Facebook password. The civil rights group called the practice “a frightening and illegal invasion of privacy.”