Facebook Joins State Lawmakers in Fighting Employers' Requests for Account Passwords

As noted in this blog earlier, state lawmakers have been at the forefront of addressing the privacy of Facebook accounts.  Employers and schools have been requesting the usernames and passwords of potential employees and students, even though such policies are in violation of Facebook's Statement of Rights & Responsibilites.  A bill was filed in Maryland after institutions began to request the passwords of star athletes.  Lawmakers in Illinois are also working to address these issues.  Now, Facebook has released an official statement condemning the practice of employers askings for their employees' or potential employees' account passwords.

Facebook's statement notes the expecatation of privacy that the company believes its users and their friends should have.  Facebook's Erin Egan, Chief Privacy Officer of Policy also explains in the note that the privacy violations go beyond just one individual user because having full access to one person's account also potentialliy exposes the information of that person's friends.  This is information her or his friends may not have intended to show to the public or any of their friends' prospective employers.

Egan also alludes to the legal can of worms such access could open.  Having a access to a person's account could expose employers to information that could "open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don’t hire that person."  Furthermore, "[T]he employer may assume liability for the protection of the information they have seen or for knowing what responsibilities may arise based on different types of information (e.g. if the information suggests the commission of a crime)."

Facebook concludes by adding that "[they will] take action to protect the privacy and security of [their] users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges."

Stay tuned to this blog as CSG follows how state policy makers and social media companies continue to address this emerging and controversial practice in both the legislative and judicial arenas.