A BRACE of US senators have asked for an investigation into whether businesses are asking potential employees to hand over their Facebook login information.
Senator Charles Schumer, the Senate's third-ranking Democrat, and Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut are concerned that the practice could violate federal law and they have asked the Justice Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to have a look and see what they think.
The news that businesses are asking job applicants for their Facebook login passwords is a shocker.
The letter is reproduced in a joint press release on Senator Blumenthal's web site.
"I am alarmed and outraged by rapidly and widely spreading employer practices seeking access to Facebook passwords or confidential information on other social networks," said Blumenthal in a statement.
"A ban on these practices is necessary to stop unreasonable and unacceptable invasions of privacy. An investigation will help remedy ongoing intrusions and coercive practices, while we draft new statutory protections to clarify and strengthen the law. With few exceptions, employers do not have the need or the right to demand access to applicants' private, password-protected information."
Cases of firms asking for passwords have been reported in both the US and the UK. We would recommend that no one hand over such information to anyone, ever.
"Before this disturbing practice becomes widespread, we must have an immediate investigation into whether the practice violates federal law," said Schumer.
"I'm confident the investigation will show it does. Facebook agrees, and I'm sure most Americans agree, that employers have no business asking for your Facebook password."
Facebook agrees, and in a statement posted on its web site it has cautioned users against parting with their login details.
"If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password, let anyone access your account, or do anything that might jeopardise the security of your account or violate the privacy of your friends. We have worked really hard at Facebook to give you the tools to control who sees your information," said Facebook.
"As a user, you shouldn't be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job."
In a statement a Facebook spokesperson explained, again, that the firm does not approve of such requests from firms, and hinted that if i5 thought it appropriate it might take the action further and whip out some lawyers.
For now though, it is happy to discuss the issue with policy makers and other interested parties.
"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," said the spokesperson.
"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." µ