COMMENTARY | Two senators have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to open an investigation into the legality of employers asking for Facebook passwords during job interviews, according to the Associated Press. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., believe the Department of Justice and U.S. Employment Opportunity Commission need to see if this is a violation of the applicant's rights. As a political/business consultant, I see a DoJ investigation as excessive as the statement by Facebook last week should be enough to close the issue.
Last week, the social media giant said how sharing your Facebook password with someone else is a violation of the terms of service any new member has to agree with. An applicant faced with a request for a social media password now has the argument that the sharing is in violation of a contract with Facebook where the penalty would be termination of the account. The applicant can follow the statement by asking, "Why would your firm require me to place an agreed contract in jeopardy for a position I have not been guaranteed?" I would love to see an interviewer stumble over this question.
Simple legal logic answers any question about the legality of an interviewer asking for your Facebook password when you look at other types of passwords they cannot ask you for and why. An interviewer is not allowed to ask for your debit card PIN because it is confidential information you are forced to protect due to an agreement you signed with the bank. Sens. Schumer and Blumenthal are not raising an issue about debit PINs to Holder because the legality is easily understood. As senators, they should be able to realize Facebook passwords hold the same legal protection.
I see Schumer and Blumenthal trying to stick their noses into a hot topic to bring attention to themselves. The problem is they could have come forward and made the simple legal connections to show how the Facebook passwords are already protected instead of grandstanding and attempting to get Holder's office involved. While no investigation is needed, Holder should respond by pointing out how the Facebook passwords equate to debit PINs and close the case on this issue forever.
- Richard Blumenthal