Update: Sen. Richard Blumenthal Mulls Legislation on Employers Requiring Applicants’ Social-Networking Passwords
In the last week, there has been increasing focus on the practice by some employers of requiring job applicants to hand over their passwords to their private accounts on social-networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace in order to gather personal data when the social-networking profiles are closed to the public. The requirements raise privacy and civil liberties questions. Illinois is among the states considering legislation to protect job applicants from these demands.
Now, Politico reports that Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is writing federal legislation to restrict companies from requiring applicants to reveal their social-networking passwords:
The Connecticut Democrat and former state attorney general told POLITICO that those kind of requests from prospective employers amount to an “unreasonable invasion of privacy” for those looking for work. Blumenthal said it ought to be prohibited, just like other banned employment practices such as administering polygraph tests to screen applicants.
“I am very deeply troubled by the practices that seem to be spreading voraciously around the country,” Blumenthal said in an interview. He added that an “employer has a lot of ways to find out information” about potential new employees.
Blumenthal said his bill would be ready “in the very near future.” […]
Employers have always been able to scrutinize social network accounts when prospective and current employees allow their photos, comments and other data to be public by default. Of greater concern to privacy hawks, however, are managers who are cajoling new applicants with private accounts to hand over their log-in credentials as part of the hiring process.
While state regulators begin to examine the issue, Blumenthal said Wednesday he’s drafting legislation that would outlaw it. The senator cited longstanding federal prohibitions against administering polygraph tests to potential employees as a rationale for a new law.