Senators urge feds to probe employers requesting Facebook passwords

Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) on Sunday urged federal authorities  to investigate whether employers who ask for their workers' Facebook passwords are breaking the law.

There is a growing trend of employers demanding that job applicants provide passwords to their private Facebook accounts to check for embarrassing or damaging information, according to recent media reports.

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In a statement, Schumer and Blumenthal called the practice "disturbing" and said it "represents a grave intrusion into personal privacy."

They asked the Justice Department to investigate whether the practice violates the Stored Communication Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which ban unauthorized access to electronic information.

"Requiring applicants to provide login credentials to secure social media websites and then using those credentials to access private information stored on those sites may be unduly coercive and therefore constitute unauthorized access under both [laws]," the lawmakers wrote.

Schumer and Blumenthal also sent a letter to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, asking the agency to probe whether demanding a Facebook password would give an employer access to "private, protected information that may be impermissible to consider when making hiring decisions."

They worried that the private information could be used to discriminate against otherwise qualified applicants.

The senators said they are drafting legislation to ban the practice.

"With few exceptions, employers do not have the need or the right to demand access to applicants’ private, password-protected information,” Blumenthal said.

“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?” Schumer asked.

Facebook condemned the practice in a blog post on Friday.