CISPA Add-On Banning Employers from Seeking Facebook Passwords Killed

    April 30, 2013
    Josh Wolford
    Comments are off for this post.

As you probably know, on Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, better known as CISPA. The bill, which aims to help the government react to cybersecurity threats by making it easier to share information between itself and private companies, saw bipartisan support. Opponents of CISPA have argued that the bill is a a massive invasion of privacy, and will be used to justify wholesale spying on the American public by making companies who give up private user info immune from suits or prosecution.

Although CISPA as a whole saw bipartisan support, one last-minute amendement that looked to curtail a worrisome practice by employers was shot down on party lines.

Colorado Democrat Ed Perlmutter attempted to tack on a provision to CISPA that would make it illegal for employers to require prospective employees to hand over their social media passwords as a condition of acquiring or keeping a job.

Has an employer even demanded one of your social media passwords as a condition of being hired or keeping your job? What was your reaction? Let us know in the comments.

The proposal was voted down 224-189, with Republicans in the majority.

“People have an expectation of privacy when using social media like Facebook and Twitter. They have an expectation that their right to free speech and religion will be respected when they use social media outlets. No American should have to provide their confidential personal passwords as a condition of employment. Both users of social media and those who correspond share the expectation of privacy in their personal communications. Employers essentially can act as imposters and assume the identity of an employee and continually access, monitor and even manipulate an employee’s personal social activities and opinions. That’s simply a step too far,” said Perlmutter.

This isn’t the first time that Perlmutter has introduced this sort of legislation. Last year, the same employee password protection language was rejected in the House.

Last year, the practice of employers demanding the Facebook passwords of prospective employees became a hot topic. Both state legislatures and the U.S. Congress introduced measures to counteract the rising trend. One particular bill, the Password Protection Act of 2012, was introduced in both the House and the Senate, but went nowhere.

That bill was introduced by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal. Before the bill was presented, back in May of 2012, he, along with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sent a letter to both the Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission asking them to “launch a federal investigation into a disturbing new trend.”

Soon after that letter was sent, a motion called “Mind Your Own Business on Passwords” failed in Congress. It would have made the employee password issue one monitored by the Federal Communication Commission. They would have had the right to declare the practice illegal.

So, the Password Protection Act of 2012 moved forward. The language made it a crime that any employer “for the purposes of employing, promoting, or terminating employment, compels or coerces any person to authorize access, such as by providing a password or similar information through which a computer may be accessed.”

But it died, and has been referred back to committee.

The Password Protection Act of 2012 isn’t the only federal bill proposed to deal with the issue. Say hello to SNOPA, or the Social Networking Online Protection Act. It aims to do what the PPA tried to do, but with even clearer languge:

To prohibit employers and certain other entities from requiring or requesting that employees and certain other individuals provide a user name, password, or other means for accessing a personal account on any social networking website.

It’s been introduced, and referred to committee. No movement yet.

On the flip side, some states have had success in passing bans on the practice. First, the state of Maryland enacted a law banning password snooping. And this year, laws in both California and Illinois went into effect.

“It’s not déjà vu — this is the same amendment I introduced twice last year, so people have had plenty of time to study and discuss it. It has bipartisan support. It wouldn’t kill the underlying cyber-security bill; it wouldn’t send it back to committee. It merely safeguards an individuals’ personal privacy as they use their own personal social media accounts,” said Perlmutter of his CISPA add-on.

It’s important to note that Perlmutter did in fact vote yes on CISPA.

But despite those claims, the provision was crushed. If the past year is any indication, password protection legislation must be tackled at the state level, as it’s the only place that its been able to see any sort of success.

Do you think that we need a federal law banning the practice of password snooping by employers? Do you think that it’s better left to the states? Or, do you see no reason for any such legislation on any level? Let us know in the comments.

  • Hot Iron

    I think that is an awful bill to have passed! If the government has your social media passwords, well aren’t we fully into the “Big Brother” invasion that everyone is so concerned about?

    As long as someone is professional enough to hire, what difference does it make, what’s on his/her Twitter account?

    Where they may want to look is on Pornographic/Pedophilia sites, that is where the dangerous types play!
    As in, I once dated a “Police Task Force Sargent” and un known to me the entire time we were dating, ( He was very capable of hiding all this as, he also worked undercover for many years!) he was on a Bondage Sadomasochistic site as well as all sorts of other pornographic sites!!
    Now in this case, you have a man, able to carry mass weaponry, arresting people and into Bondage and S & M!!!
    NOW THAT IS FRIGHTNING! Police, and Public Officials is where we need to look to judge whether a person is stable enough to hold a position of authority or make decisions that will effect the rest of us!

    I do not agree that a Twitter, Facebook or any other public site is where you will find the dangerous or sketchy types that one may not want to employ, as anyone with any sense would never display their psychotic behavior’s on a public page?

    Ridiculous and upsetting to say the least and are politicians required to give forth their passwords? I think that would be much more insightful and worthy of knowing what’s on their social media pages.

  • http://www.iledafa.com Jaap Verduijn

    I live in The Netherlands. It is utterly unthinkable here that an employer would ask a (prospective) employee for their password to ANY site, including Facebook and Twitter. They sure look you up on the internet, no doubt… which I consider perfectly alright, because what a person posts on the internet supplies a lot of info about their character that wouldn’t come out in any job interview… nowadays it would be silly NOT to look up on the internet any person that you would do business or have a relationship with.
    But the idea of an employer asking for a password is completely unthinkable. Literally. No employer would THINK of doing so… it would mean the end of his business.

    • Hsspringman

      A person that I was assisting that the company Info Tech had asked for their Facebook password during a job interview. If i was asked for such information the only response would be me leaving that business.

  • http:/www.markedwardhall.com Mark Edward Hall

    I think we are living in a hysterical society where people are willing to give up everything in exchange for the illusion of security.

    Benjamin Franklin said, “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.

    Orwell’s 1984 has come to pass.

  • James Lewes

    This is bullshit. I know times are tough but I would refuse to take a job from an asshole who even asked me such a thing. If the voters if this country were not such apathetic molluscs they would take this bill and turn it on its head if it passes. As your elected representatives work for you, as taxpayers we pay their wages, thru should have to provide voters with the same information they are requiring their voters to provide their employers.

  • Grandma Is Off Her Rocker

    I would laugh, but unfortunately this is NOT funny at all. WHY would an employer even ask for a prospective employee’s PRIVATE PASSWORD????
    What could possibly be the purpose for this, other than “devious intentions”? MANY sites now allow a person to log in with their FaceBook username and password, so by revealing this information you would leave yourself wide open for what basically amounts to “Identity Theft”. Who knows how many other people in the employer’s company/business may gain access to those passwords? It is certainly beyond my comprehension WHY any employer would even make such a demand, and WHY there would even be a “question” about the legality of such a demand. CISPA in itself is bad enough, but this “Add-On” shouldn’t even be neccessary, much less have been voted down. What’s the purpose of even having passwords for PRIVATE accounts if we’re being FORCED to reveal such a password for the “privilege” of being employed? What’s next? Employers requiring cameras installed in their employees’ homes, so they can monitor them move 24/7 ??? (but wait, that will probably be the next step, required by our government, if the drones can’t keep us under enough surveillance).

  • http://www.nuclearchowder.com Mike Brooks

    I think with things like Google and Facebook people are overly concerned about privacy. Sure it is a much more ‘connected’ world than ever before. And of course news flies from one end of the planet in seconds. But our lives have been open books for years. Decades. Technology only makes it easier. But data has been collected on us since well before this technology was born. I reference this article in an article of my own.

  • http://www.graciousstore.com Nina

    Is the bill based on facts or speculations? Of what use is personal information on face-book and other social media to any employer?

  • http://l-lists.com/en/ L-Lists

    Why would an employer ask for a prospective employee’s private password?

    Answer: To find out how much they could exploit that prospective employee. If an employee is so desperate for work that they would give their passwords to their employer, they probably could also be coerced into working beyond the agreed upon hours, for less than the agreed upon pay, doing tasks they never agreed or expected to do in the first place. Such an employee would be a psychopathic employer’s dream.

  • SpamExterminator

    What A Bunch of Useless Trash We Have for a Government. Allow the Employee to Invade on Your Personal Life in the off chance U may say something bad about them. Retarded Useless POS’s. Go To Hell I will Excercise my Freedom of Speech and I WILL NOT EVER Give U a Password. Screw The Useless Job there are others out there.

  • Rocco

    I would simply tell the employer that to give ANYONE my Facebook password is a breach of Facebook policy, and I would be taken off of Facebook if I gave it to them.

  • beth

    Id tell my employer to pound sand. My passwords are my business.

  • Hsspringman

    Yet more proof that the current GOP is no friend of the American citizen. We are in dire need of election reform.

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      “Yet more proof that the current GOP is no friend of the American citizen.”

      I think you missed the fact that the GOP voted AGAINST the measure and that it was a Democrat that keeps re-proposing it and the Democrats ALL voting for it each time.

      Reading comprehension beyond talking points is not your forte, it would seem.

      It seems that like the many “progressives” though, you are looking from the other side of the mirror where everything is backwards and upside down.

      • Mario

        No, Craig. You are at once sadly and hilariously wrong.

      • windows95

        Yeah, you seem to think that this article is about CISPA itself when it’s actually about an amendment to CISPA to prevent employers from asking for you social media passwords. The AMENDMENT was defeated, voted against by nearly every Republican in the house, while THE BILL – CISPA itself is cheered along. The bill is opposed by both ACLU and FreedomWorks types and yet it is overwhelmingly approved by the Republicans in the House. It’s not even a progressive/conservative issue since they seem to both be united against CISPA in the real world, but unfortunately politicians don’t live in the real world.

      • Bk

        You fail at reading comprehension, not to mention history.

      • Kris

        Are you serious? Craig. It is a Democrat trying to BAN employers from requiring passwords from their employees. It is the Democrats supporting a measure that PROTECTS our rights.

        “Colorado Democrat Ed Perlmutter attempted to tack on a provision to CISPA that would make it illegal for employers to require prospective employees to hand over their social media passwords as a condition of acquiring or keeping a job.” I believe that says “Democrat” protecting our rights.

        It is a REPUBLICAN who is pushing the CISPA bill and REPUBLICANS who have voted against every measure to maintain our privacy and rights. It would appear you’re the one lacking in reading comprehension.

  • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

    “It merely safeguards an individuals’ personal privacy as they use their own personal social media accounts,” said Perlmutter of his CISPA add-on.”

    So this is the definition of “progressive”, “Up” means “Down”, “Left” means “Right” and “Privacy” means “None”?

    What’s next? “Innocent until proven guilty” becomes “Go directly to jail, do not pass Go, do not collect $200” and “Get out of Jail Free” becomes an one way ticket to Solitary confinement?

    I suppose all that makes sense considering the > 16 trillion dollars spent on the “War on Poverty” since its inception only to see poverty worsen steadily and significantly over the years irregardless of any supposed ‘earnings gap’.

  • Robb

    I’ve had an employer systematically snooping through social media sites to see what we (the employees) had posted (their excuse was to see if we posted pics of the site). Typical Repugnican BS. For a bunch whose stated purpose is to get government off our backs they sure are doing everything they can to do the opposite.

  • so I sez

    These state representatives work for US, as in “we the people”. Essentially the population is the employer of the state senators. I demand these “employees” to provide us, the people, their employers with the passwords to ALL their online activities – their bank records, their ISP accounts, their webmail accounts. *IF* this CISPA document is correct about the password provisions, then it is a simple affair to make these individuals see they are not able to act in a bubble. They will not be able to hide behind an alias, or some exemption – the government serves the population and NOT the other way around.

  • Marcie

    What the Hell! We are not in Germany in the 1800s If we have to give our employers are passwords to our private fun time activities we might as well have to give them our friends phone numbers and addresses and why not give them your girlfriends info as well …What is wrong with Americans to even attempt such a thing, next they will want to know our underwear sizes, c’mon draw the line our private time is OURS! I used to work at a retail store and all they asked us to do was sign a contract that we could not mention our work place in a derogatory manner at all, I can see their point. To invade our privacy by suggesting that we give up our personal passwords is just ridiculous and non American, we need to take a stand, don’t forget Americans fought and died for our freedom, don’t give it back!

  • vf

    NO, I would not volunteer mypassword to myemployer, however, I think it has been compromised on numerous occasions. The bug seems to be in the phone. Not fb alone.

  • John

    I’ve never been asked, nor do I know anyone who has been asked. I have heard the odd person say “well, I know someone who was asked, and they got fired cause…”. But the reality is I don’t know of one real case. Personally speaking, I will never give out personal passwords regardless of the importance of the information they protect. If it means a job, so be it. That is just going too far by anyone’s standards.
    And, btw, good article. First one I’ve seen that wasn’t an obvious scare tactic.

  • Misty

    More people should become self employed.

  • Christopher

    It’s illegal (i.e. UNCONSTITUTIONAL) for the federal government to ban actions of this nature (like almost all actions) of private individuals or organizations, but that is not necessarily the case for the states unless their constitutions say otherwise. Read your constitution(s) especially the U.S.’s TENTH AMENDMENT and/or Article I, section VIII.

    On a practical note, I’m glad the FCC didn’t get even more power. Such well intended actions might be helpful at first to employees, but eventually a new lobby will be born (or the old ones will grow) in order to influence this new regulation; then, it’ll be worse than before because the government will be backing the snooping (for the big guys at least). THE ROAD TO HELL IS PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS (and CORPORATISM/CRONY CAPITALISM).

  • Margaret Leary

    States are largely responsible for managing employment laws so I have no problem with this. Typically, Federal laws take the “teeth” out of state laws when they are enacted. Federal Government already prohibits this practice for the hiring of Civilian employees as it can introduce the possibility of discrimination into the hiring process.

  • v_dub

    Just make up a fake account and give it to them. Or tell them you don’t have one, no biggy. They only want to see if your gonna be using FB on company time.

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