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Employers Can Still Demand Facebook Passwords After House Vote

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 02, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Internet users were in an uproar last week when countless news services issued reports detailing the growing practice of employers asking job applicants for their Facebook passwords. Facebook itself even spoke out, suggesting that it would consider taking action.

The incident also prompted some House Democrats to add an amendment to a piece of Federal Communications Commission legislation up for vote. To the dismay of some, that Facebook password bill was blocked by House Republicans in a 236 to 184 vote.

House Democrats saw the bill as protecting consumers, according to the Wall Street Journal. But Rep. Greg Walden (R. Ore.), chairman of the relevant committee, didn't think it would protect consumers at all.

He perhaps rightly pointed out that the Facebook password bill would have no immediate effect. There is a huge lapse of time between the time the FCC is instructed to write a rule, the time it writes the rule, and the time it is published.

So if the FCC isn't the right agency to enforce a Facebook password law, then which is?

Maybe the Department of Justice. Senate Democrats have asked the Attorney General to investigate whether the practice violates the Stored Communications Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, reports the Associated Press. But the laws are meant to prohibit unauthorized access to electronic information and computers. If a job applicant consents, is it really unauthorized?

Then there's the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which may be the best entity to enforce a Facebook password law. Or to create a rule banning the practice. Some suggest that asking a job applicant for his Facebook password is akin to asking for his age, religion, political affiliation and sexual orientation. These questions are already banned by federal law.

So, what do you think? Should Congress pass a Facebook password law? Do current laws already prohibit the practice? Who should enforce a prohibition?

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