Facebook considering legal action against employers asking for access

By Michael Klazema on 3/23/2012

Earlier this week the Associated Press reported on a new trend among private companies and government agencies where they are asking applicants to divulge their Facebook account names and passwords or simply show an HR professional their private information on Facebook in a joint web browsing session. Regardless of the reaons why job seekers might be refusing or complying with such request, this practice remains a clear violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities that prohibit users from sharing and others from soliciting a Facebook password.

One frequently mentioned case concerns the city of Bozeman in Montana which asked job applicants not only for their Facebook username and password, but also requested similar information for their private email acccounts and other social-networking sites.

Aside from the threat of legal action by Facebook, the more troubling propsect for employers is the fact that by requesting such information, they may be unknowingly be incurring potentially additional legal risk. If an employer because of this type of access discovers on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. disabled, an ethnic minority or over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don’t hire that person.

Various state legisltors in Illinois and Maryland have already raised questions about the legality of this practice and are working on legislation to forbid public agencies from asking for such type of acces.

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