A couple days after the Associated Press investigated employers asking job seekers for Facebook passwords in order to perform background checks, the social networking company has responded in a blog post. Facebook first and foremost reiterates its motto that "you should never have to share your password." The company also reserves the right to terminate your account if you solicit passwords from others (as stated in its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities), and says that you expose yourself to "legal liability" by doing so. Facebook elaborated:
"If an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don't hire that person."
Thus, asking for passwords is a lose-lose situation for employers. And this is besides the fact that asking for someone's Facebook password is as ridiculous as asking someone to let you rifle through their email inbox. Additionally, anyone with your password has instant access to all of your friends' pictures, phone numbers, email addresses, and private messages, which turns the practice into an even bigger invasion of privacy.
Facebook concluded by mentioning its commitment to defending its users:
"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."
On a side note, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal also took action, telling Politico yesterday that he's busy drafting a bill to prevent employers from asking for passwords, for the same reason employers can no longer use polygraph tests on job seekers. While neither Blumenthal nor Facebook can stop employers from threatening job seekers who refuse to give up their passwords, they sure can point out the consequences of doing so.
Update: Facebook provided us with an additional statement to further clarify its stance on the issue:
"We don't think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don't think it's right the thing to do. While we do not have any immediate plans to take legal action against any specific employers, we look forward to engaging with policy makers and other stakeholders, to help better safeguard the privacy of our users."