Schiff Introduces Legislation to Protect Facebook Passwords from Prospective Employers

Congressman Adam Schiff

This week, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) helped introduce the Password Protection Act Of 2012, legislation aimed at curbing the growing practice of employers requiring prospective or current employees to provide access to password-protected accounts as a condition for employment. According to news reports across the country, this is a cause of great concern especially among students set to graduate college this month. Schiff introduced the bill with eleven other co-sponsors led by Reps. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO).
“This common sense legislation would prevent employers from mandating that job applicants or current employees disclose confidential passwords to their social networks, like Facebook. Someone’s personal page should be just that – personal,”said Schiff. “These online pages are a modern version of the diary, and people should be free to share their digital diaries or keep them completely private – as they choose. But job applicants should not be required to turn over their passwords and have their privacy violated in order to secure employment. Especially in this tough economic environment, we should be removing impediments for job seekers, not creating them.


“Earlier this year, I was proud to support an amendment that would have accomplished these goals as well, but it was unfortunately voted down on the House floor. I will continue to support privacy protections like this one.”


Recent news reports have highlighted a disturbing increase in the number of employers asking prospective employees to hand over usernames and passwords to their personal accounts on websites like Facebook. Some job applicants are even being asked during interviews to log into these websites and allow interviewers to browse the applicant’s profile, acquaintances, and other information. Others are being asked to provide passwords on job applications.


The Password Protection Act of 2012 enhances current law to prohibit employers from compelling or coercing employees into providing access to their private accounts:


  • Prohibits an employer from forcing prospective or current employees to provide access to their own private account as a condition of employment.


  • Prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against a prospective or current employee because that employee refuses to provide access to a password-protected account.


  • The Password Protection Act only prohibits adverse employment related actions as a consequence of an employee’s failure to provide access to their own private accounts. It preserves the rights of employers to:


o   Permit social networking within the office on a voluntary basis.

o   Set policies for employer-operated computer systems.

o   Hold employees accountable for stealing data from their employers.

o   Employers that violate the Password Protection Act may face financial penalties.