Republicans sink Facebook snooping legislation

Posted by Emma Woollacott

House Republicans yesterday voted down an amendment that would have made it illegal for employers to ask job applicants for their Facebook passwords.

The amendment, included in the broader FCC Reform Act, would have banned organisations from demanding to see applicants' private accounts with Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or similar services.

"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," it read.

Introducing the amendment, Rep. Ed Perlmutter said nobody should be forced to hand over such information. He pointed out that doing so exposed not only the applicants' personal data, but also that of their friends.

"Both users of social media and those who correspond share the expectation of privacy in their personal communications," he said.
 
"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."

However, his colleagues failed to agree, voting the amendment down by 236 votes to 185. Division was largely along party lines, with only one Republican voting in favor of the amendment.

Meanwhile, states including Maryland and Illinois are considering introducing their own legislation to stop the practice.