By Brendan Sasso - 04/05/12 06:56 PM EDT
In less than a week, nearly 55,000 people have signed a petition urging the Justice Department to investigate whether employers who ask for their workers' Facebook passwords are breaking the law.
"Employers should not be allowed to demand private social networking passwords from job applicants. This privacy violation needs to be investigated -- and needs to be stopped," the petition reads.
Blumenthal and House lawmakers, including Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), are drafting legislation to ban the practice.
The committee said it is working with Blumenthal's office and the senator "needs grassroots support."
Conor Kennedy, senior associate with P Street, the lobbying arm of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said the people who signed the petition "are sending a clear message to Washington: Americans should not have to choose between jobs and their privacy."
"As more and more Americans stand with them and sign this petition, we will work with congressional leaders like Senator Richard Blumenthal to investigate and hold employers responsible for any violation of employees' privacy rights on social networks," Kennedy said in a statement.
Outrage first erupted after the Associated Press reported last month that some bosses have demanded that job applicants provide passwords to their private Facebook accounts to check for embarrassing or damaging information.
The passwords give employers access to the users’ private messages, photos and the profiles of their friends.
The AP story cited mostly isolated incidents, and it is unclear how widespread the practice is.
Facebook condemned employers who ask for passwords in a blog post last month.