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The practice of employers demanding Facebook passwords from applicants is alarming, but perhaps not common enough to convince the House to take action.
Republicans in the House of Representatives voted down a proposal Tuesday night that would’ve prevented employers from accessing workers’ Facebook passwords.
Democrats introduced the legislation as a potential amendment to H.R. 3309, the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act of 2012, a bill that would allow the FCC to step in whenever job applicants are asked for confidential information.
If the proposal, titled “Mind Your Own Business on Passwords,” had passed, it would have given the more general bill an online privacy-specific clause.
The final vote was 236 to 184 against the proposal, with only one Republican in favor.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) introduced the proposal on the House floor.
“It only makes sense because those that are using these kinds of social media have an expectation of privacy,” he said.
Perlmutter’s proposal may not have passed in the House, but some senators are currently drafting up similar legislation. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who have asked the Attorney General to investigate claims that would confirm the practice is happening, are already drafting a bill to prohibit password requests.
Policymakers have sprung into action after a call from Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan, who vowed to fight the practice by reaching out to legislators.
“We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action,” Egan wrote.
The practice of employers demanding employees’ Facebook passwords is alarming, but not common. So far, only one employer has been identified—The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which is named in an American Civil Liberties Union case. The agency has since temporarily suspended the practice.
Video still via Nancy Pelosi
Lauren Rae Orsini is a web culture reporter who specializes in anime and the business of fandom. Her work has been published by Forbes and Business Insider.