Facebook Password Privacy Amendment Defeated

By David Cohen Comment

Efforts by Congress to block employers from requiring employees or potential employees to surrender their passwords for Facebook and other social networks hit a stumbling block Wednesday, when a Facebook user protection amendment submitted by Representative Ed Perlmutter of Colorado did not pass the House of Representatives.

The amendment lost by a vote of 236 to 184, and only one Republican voted in favor of it, TechCrunch reported, adding that had it passed, an extra section would have been added to the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act of 2012, which would have allowed the FCC to prevent employers from requesting passwords from employees or potential employees.

The proposed amendment read:

Nothing in this act or any amendment made by this act shall be construed to limit or restrict the ability of the Federal Communications Commission to adopt a rule or to amend an existing rule to protect online privacy, including requirements in such rule that prohibit licensees or regulated entities from mandating that job applicants or employees disclose confidential passwords to social networking websites.

When introducing the proposed amendment, Perlmutter said:

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.

Both users of social media and those who correspond share the expectation of privacy in their personal communications. Employers essentially can act as imposters 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.

In the other legislative branch, Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Charles Schumer of New York asked the U.S. Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate whether U.S. law already prohibits the practice, saying that it may violate the Stored Communications Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

And Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan issued a forceful statement urging users of the social network to refuse to surrender their passwords.

Readers: Do you think this issue might face a different outcome in the Senate?