Two Democratic senators are asking Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to investigate whether employers asking for Facebook passwords during job interviews are violating federal law, their offices announced Sunday.
Troubled by reports of the practice, Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said they were calling on the Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to begin investigations. The senators are sending letters to the heads of the agencies.
The Associated Press reported last week that some private and public agencies around the country were asking job seekers for their social media credentials. The practice has alarmed privacy advocates, but its legality remained murky.
On Friday, Facebook warned employers not to ask job applicants for their passwords, presumably so they could view applicant profiles on the site. The company threatened legal action against applications that violated its longstanding policy against sharing passwords.
A Facebook executive cautioned that if an employer discovered that a job applicant is a member of a protected group, the employer might be vulnerable to claims of discrimination if it did not hire that person.
Personal information such as gender, race, religion and age are often displayed on a Facebook profile — all details that are protected by federal employment law.
Not sharing passwords is a basic tenet of online conduct. Aside from the privacy concerns, Facebook considers the practice a security risk.
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