Yesterday, Facebook responded to reports that employers, colleges and government agencies were requiring students and potential employees to divulge their social network credentials, warning employers about the risks associated their actions, but also stating that it could take legal action against them.
The statement drew a lot of praise from Facebook users, recognising that the company would fight for user privacy (despite having come in for criticism over its other policies in recent months).
Facebook said that it believes the practice (of handing over login details to employers) “undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends,” suggesting that it could result in “unanticipated legal liability” for the parties that request it.
The company believes that its users shouldn’t be forced to share private information to get a job or to get a place at a college, referring to the fact that it made the sharing or the solicitation of a password a violation of its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.
Facing a considerable amount of questions around just how the company intends to enforce its policies and move against rogue employers, Facebook has issued another statement on the matter, this time pointing out that it would seek to engage with policy makers and stakeholders first, before making plans to initiate legal action:
We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think it’s right the thing to do. While we do not have any immediate plans to take legal action against any specific employers, we look forward to engaging with policy makers and other stakeholders, to help better safeguard the privacy of our users.
This is the safest route for Facebook, one that engages with policy makers (who have already proposed bills prohibiting the action) to enact change before setting off down the potentially lengthy and costly legal route, which would require the company to act on behalf of its users in all countries.
However, Facebook does not rule out legal action entirely, perhaps serving as a warning to employers who intend to continue forcing their employees to hand over login details.