House Votes Against Bill to Stop Employers From Demanding Facebook Passwords

March 30, 2012  |  

Making your Facebook page private and blocking certain parts of your account may no longer do the trick if you’re worried about how your social media persona will affect employment. The House has voted against legislation Democratic lawmakers inserted as an amendment to a Federal Communications Commission bill that would prevent employers from demanding passwords from employees.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) explained why the amendment was so important.

“It only makes sense because those that are using these kinds of social media have an expectation of privacy,” he said on the House floor. “They have an expectation that their right of free speech or their right to free religion will be respected when they use these social media outlets.”

The republicans didn’t see the solution to the issue quite the same way though, which is why they voted against the FCC bill in a vote of 184 to 236. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said Facebook users do deserve protection but not the way it was outlined in the bill.

“I think it’s awful that employers think they can demand our passwords and can go snooping around. There is no disagreement with that,” he said. “Here is the flaw: Your amendment doesn’t protect them. It doesn’t do that. Actually, what this amendment does is say that all of the reforms that we are trying to put in place at the Federal Communications Commission, in order to have them have an open and transparent process where they are required to publish their rules in advance so that you can see what they’re proposing, would basically be shoved aside. They could do whatever they wanted on privacy if they wanted to, and you wouldn’t know it until they published their text afterward. There is no protection here.”

While Rep. Walden’s promise of working with democrats to draft a better bill sounds promising we know how slow Congress moves and the concern is what will happen in the interim. Facebook issued a statement last week to educate users’ about privacy and warned that employers requesting  passwords may not have the proper education to deal with the private information they obtain. As far as Facebook users go, when it comes down to needing a roof over your head and food on the table, can you really turn down an employer who asks for that information?

What do you think about employers requesting social media passwords? Would you give yours up?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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