The House of Representatives has rejected an effort to give the Federal Communications Commission the power to stop employers from asking job applicants for their password to Facebook and other social networking sites.
The effort was an amendment, proposed by Representative Ed Perlmutter of Colorado, added to legislation to reform the FCC.
“What this amendment does is it says that you cannot demand, as a condition of employment, that somebody reveal a confidential password to their Facebook, to their Flickr, to their Twitter, whatever their account may be,” Perlmutter said during a speech on the House floor.
The amendment would have added the following paragraph to the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act of 2012:
“Nothing in this Act or any amendment made by this Act shall be construed to limit or restrict the ability of the Federal Communications Commission to adopt a rule or to amend an existing rule to protect online privacy, including requirements in such rule that prohibit licensees or regulated entities from mandating that job applicants or employees disclose confidential passwords to social networking websites.”
The amendment was deemed unnecessary by the Republicans, and was voted down 236 to 184. Only one House Republican voted in support of the amendment, while only two House Democrats voted against the amendment. Republicans argued that while the proposed legislation wouldn’t help the situation, they were willing to work on new legislation in the future.
While this might sound like Republicans hate privacy, that’s not necessarily the case. The actual proposal that was being debated was the FCC Process Reform Act, which is a Republican-backed and Democrat-opposed bill. The FCC Process Reform Act wants to require the FCC to be more transparent, and Democrats believe it’s unacceptable to require the (currently Democrat-controlled) agency to do this.
As CNET points out, Perlmutter’s amendment was merely a “transparent, if clever, delaying tactic.” After all, CNET’s Declan McCullagh says, “If Perlmutter actually wanted to add that pro-privacy section to the bill, he could have suggested an amendment instead of returning to the committee.”
Perlmutter may not care nearly as much about our privacy as we think he does. In 2008, he voted for anti-privacy legislation. The FCC Process Reform Act did pass, by a vote of 247 to 174.