Two Democratic Senators are asking the Justice Department whether the increasing practice of potential employers asking for social media access from interviewees is illegal.
Senators Chuck Schumer and Richard Blumenthal are calling for an investigation based on whether asking for such access breaches existing privacy legislation. Illinois and Maryland are also mulling legislation to ban the practice.
Under existing employment law, employers cannot ask about an applicant’s religious beliefs, ethnicity, whether he or she has kids, or whether the person has any physical disabilities — all of which may be available on a social media profile.
Reports of the practice of asking for access, particularly to Facebook, have been growing and in a tight job market interviewees may feel forced to comply.
Bloomberg reports that it is a requirement to hand over your login and password if you want to work for the Virginia State Police.
Corinne Geller, spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, tells them:
“It’s a virtual character check as much as the rest of the process is a physical background check.”
Bloomberg reports on others doing it but says that one, the Maryland Division of Correction, changed it when an applicant contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and complained.
More surreptitious practices include University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill insisting that an applicant ‘friend’ a designated coach or administrative official on Facebook so that he or she can monitor their pages.
Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the ACLU, says that the practice is relatively new and that regarding government jobs: ”when the government is the employer, people have the constitutional right not to be subjected to unreasonable searches.”
Lori Andrews, a law professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law specializing in Internet privacy, tells AP she is concerned about the pressure placed on applicants, even if they voluntarily provide access to social sites.
“Volunteering is coercion if you need a job,” Andrews said.
Facebook called the practice “distressing” and says it is against their policy to share or solicit account passwords — and they don’t do it during interviews.