Following the announcement from Facebook’s privacy chief on Friday that the social network is willing to sue to protect user accounts from the prying eyes of employers, the American Civil Liberties Union weighed in, applauding Facebook for the move, but also saying it wouldn’t be enough and that Congress needs to pass a law to prevent the practice.
As Chris Calabrese, the ACLU’s legislative counsel in Washington, D.C., wrote to TPM in an emailed statement:
“We’re glad to see that Facebook is taking this problem seriously. Congress should pass legislation prohibiting any employer or school from accessing your private social networking information. It’s an egregious privacy violation, comparable to poking around in your house or reading your personal email.
In a time when we share so much through new technology, we need clear rules to make sure that we can keep control of our own information. One of them should be that a password means stay out - whether you’re an employer, a school or the government. And end-runs around password protection, like asking an employee to log in so someone else can take a look, are also unacceptable”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is already working on drafting legislation that would criminalize the practice, he told POLITICO on Wednedsay.
The ACLU had been among the most outspoken critics of the trend of employers demanding Facebook account login information from employees or prospective hires (or forcing such people to login and show off their profiles) which appears to be on the rise due to recent reports from The Associated Press and MSNBC’s Red Tape Chronicles.
Reacting to the AP report on March 20, the ACLU posted on its official blog a strong indictment of those employers who engage in Facebook snooping, with ACLU attorney Catherine Crump comparing the practice to rifling through someone’s physical mail.
“Bottom line: we believe you shouldn’t have to choose between privacy and technology,” the ACLU wrote at the time. “The same standards of privacy that we expect offline in the real world should apply online in our digital lives as well.”