Lawmakers are rushing to the plight of job applicants being asked for their Facebook login information. Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are asking Attorney General Eric Holder to look into the issue in a formal investigation involving the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You may recall that late last week, Facebook itself stepped forward to blast the practice and vaguely implying that it would sue employers who attempted it. Facebook stepped back its language a little over the weekend.
In California, Democratic Sen. Leland Yee introduced a bill that would prohibit employers from asking current employees or job applicants for their social media user names or passwords. That state measure also would bar employers from requiring access to employees’ and applicants’ social media content, to prevent employers from requiring logins or printouts of that content for their review.
In Massachusetts, state Democratic Rep. Cheryl Coakly-Rivera also filed a similar bill Friday that also expands to include personal email. Her measure also bars employers from “friending” a job applicant to view protected Facebook profiles or using similar methods for other protected social media websites.
But here’s the thing: is this really happening all that much? It certainly scares people to think that everything on their Facebook could be used against them (although if you don’t change the default privacy settings, it already could be) but aside from an isolated case here and there, I haven’t seen evidence that this is a growing trend or a common practice in employment. Could it be that politicians are piling on in order to win political favor with security-conscious voters? Politicians wouldn’t do that, would they?