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Republicans shoot down proposed ban on Facebook login boss-snoop

House legislation on jobseekers' rights breach shot down

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US House representatives from the Republican party have shot down a Democrat effort to pass a law stopping companies from demanding access to jobseekers' and employees' Facebook accounts.

Yesterday, Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter introduced an amendment to the Federal Communications Commission Reform Act in the House that would have allowed the FCC to put a stop to employers forcing current or prospective staff to give up their usernames and passwords to their Facebook accounts.

"People have an expectation of privacy when using social media like Facebook and Twitter. They have an expectation that their right to free speech and religion will be respected when they use social media outlets. No American should have to provide their confidential personal passwords as a condition of employment," Perlmutter said in a canned statement.

"Employers essentially can act as impostors and assume the identity of an employee and continually access, monitor and even manipulate an employee's personal social activities and opinions. That's simply a step too far," he added.

However, the amendment was defeated when just one Republican joined the majority of Democrats in voting for the motion, while two Democrats sided with the rest of the GOP, smashing the amendment by 236 votes to 184.

Reports of employers asking for usernames and passwords for Facebook accounts from job candidates in the US emerged in the last few weeks and have seen enraged senators and even the social network itself has spoken out against the practice.

On Friday, Facebook privacy chief Erin Egan said in a post on the social network that users shouldn't be forced to give up their passwords just to get a job.

"We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges," Egan added.

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Charles Schumer asked the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Sunday to start a federal investigation.

"I am alarmed and outraged by rapidly and widely spreading employer practices seeking access to Facebook passwords or confidential information on other social networks,” Blumenthal said in a canned statement.

“Employers have no right to ask job applicants for their house keys or to read their diaries – why should they be able to ask them for their Facebook passwords and gain unwarranted access to a trove of private information about what we like, what messages we send to people, or who we are friends with?” Schumer added.

One of the reasons why the amendment may have been shot down could be that it is covered by existing legislation.

Despite the amendment vote-down in the House, demanding an employee or jobseeker's Facebook account could still be found illegal under the existing Stored Communication Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the legislation cited by the senators.

Introducing different new legislation rather than an amendment to the FCC Reform Act could also clamp down on the practice. The Minneapolis Star Tribune and other local media are reporting that Minnesota lawmakers are putting forward a bill that would stop employers in the state from asking for Facebook access. ®

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