By Paula Katinas
NEW YORK — Does a potential employer have the right to know who “friends” you on Facebook? Senator Charles Schumer isn’t going to click the “like” button on that one!'
In response to media reports that more and more employers across the country are demanding the Facebook passwords of job applicants, Schumer and a fellow Democrat, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to determine if the intrusive practice is a violation of federal law.
The senators have also requested the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to look into the matter.
Schumer said he is concerned about the invasion of privacy of job seekers.
Employers have been requesting the Facebook user names and passwords from job applicants during the job interview process so that they can have a look at the applicants’ postings, photos and emails, according to the Associated Press.
People looking for a job often comply with the demand out of fear that if they refuse, they won’t get the job, Schumer said.
Schumer and Blumenthal said they want to put an end to the practice. If the Department of Justice doesn’t find it illegal, the two senators said they will introduce legislation to make it illegal.
“Employers have no right to ask job applicants for their house keys or to read their private 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 asked.
“In an age when more and more of our personal information - and our private social interactions - are online, it is vital that all individuals be allowed to determine for themselves what personal information they want to make public and protect personal information from their would-be employers. This is especially important during the job-seeking process, when all the power is on one side of the fence,” Schumer said.
Blumenthal said he is alarmed by the trend.
“A ban on these practices is necessary to stop unreasonable and unacceptable invasions of privacy,” he said.
The controversial practice has also come to the attention of Facebook company heads.
Erin Egan, the chief privacy officer for Facebook, issued a statement on the social networking site on March 23 blasting the practice.
“We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging our policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action,” Egan wrote.
Addressing Facebook users, Egan also wrote, “You shouldn’t be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job.”