Archive for category Privacy

Facebookers trigger vote to choke Zuck’s data suck • The Register

The Register® — Biting the hand that feeds IT

Facebookers trigger vote to choke Zuck’s data suck

50,000 punters sound off on privacy policy rewrite


Facebook may be forced to make changes to its data use policy after campaigners helped drive enough complaints about the company’s own proposed amendments to trigger a user vote on the matter.

Under Facebook’s ‘Statement of Rights and Responsibilities‘ the company is obliged to allow its users to vote on alternatives the company draws up if “more than 7,000 users comment” on its own proposals seeking to change those terms.

Earlier this month the social networking business, headed by billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, announced that it wanted to update its data use policy because the Irish data protection watchdog had asked it to “enhance” it in order “to be even more detailed about how [Facebook] uses information”.

The Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) audited Facebook Ireland’s privacy policies and practices late last year after it received complaints about the company’s use of personal data from privacy group Europe-v-Facebook. Facebook Ireland has responsibility for all Facebook users outside of the USA and Canada.

The watchdog told Facebook to make a number of changes to the way it uses and stores its users’ personal data and the way it explains its data use policy. It is due to commence another audit of Facebook in July in order to assess the company’s efforts in meeting these recommendations.

Facebook’s proposed changes to its data use policy include new explanations of its data deletion practices as well as the controls that users have over the sharing of information with third-party applications. However, 47,824 users commented on the plans with many posting opposition to the planned new terms and instead calling for the chance to vote on the “demands” outlined by Europe-v-Facebook.

The campaigners have said the planned changes would not address the concerns they have with Facebook’s privacy practices and have instead outlined their own alternatives. These include requiring Facebook to “implement an ‘Opt-In’ instead of an ‘Opt-Out’ system for all data use and all features (eg, face recognition, applications or tags).”

“Right now, we are going through to see if there are things that make sense to change or that we want to respond to,” Barry Schnitt, director of corporate communications and public policy at Facebook, has said, according to a report by CNET.

More than 30 per cent of “all active registered users as of the date of the notice” would have to vote on the terms of that notice in order for the vote to be “binding” on Facebook, according to the company’s terms.

According to Facebook, the site – which floated on the stock market this month – had 901 million monthly active users at the end of March 2012.

 Facebookers trigger vote to choke Zuck’s data suck • The Register.

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Maryland bans employers from asking for Facebook passwords – The Hill’s Hillicon Valley

Maryland bans employers from asking for Facebook passwords

By Andrew Feinberg 04/09/1 

Maryland on Monday became the first state in the nation to ban employers from requesting access to the social media accounts of employees and job applicants.

The state’s General Assembly passed legislation that would prohibit employers from requiring or seeking user names, passwords or any other means of accessing personal Internet sites such as Facebook as a condition of employment.

The bill has its genesis in a controversy that began when Maryland Corrections Officer Robert Collins returned to work following a leave of absence taken after the death of his mother. While completing a re-certification process needed to return to duty, Collins was asked for his personal Facebook password, ostensibly to check for known gang activity. He refused, and obtained the assistance of the Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which quickly filed a lawsuit, bringing the case onto the national stage. 

Collins’s case reached the halls of Congress, where several lawmakers gave speeches against the practice of employers asking for passwords or “friending” applicants. Lawmakers in the House and Senate are working on legislation that would ban the practice nationally.

Maryland ACLU legislative director Melissa Goemann said that Maryland “has trail-blazed a new frontier in protecting freedom of expression in the digital age, and has created a model for other states to follow.” 

Collins said he is “excited to know that our esteemed policymakers in Maryland found it important to protect the privacy of Maryland’s citizens.” 

“I hope that other state legislatures, and more importantly the federal government, follow Maryland’s lead and ensure these essential protections for all Americans nationwide,” Collins said.

 Maryland bans employers from asking for Facebook passwords – The Hill’s Hillicon Valley.

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Used Xboxes can be hacked for credit card information, researcher says | The Verge

Used Xboxes can be hacked for credit card information, researcher says

Adi Robertson  March 30



Restoring an Xbox 360 console to factory settings before selling it apparently isn’t enough to remove your personal information. In an interview with Kotaku , Drexel University researcher Ashley Podhradsky said that her team had successfully retrieved credit card data from a refurbished Xbox using simple modding tools. The software gave them access to the console’s files and folders, letting them extract information that hadn’t been wiped even by the Microsoft-authorized reseller. The process was published in the August 2011 Proceedings of the America’s Conference on Information Systems.

Podhradsky says that Microsoft “does a great job of protecting their proprietary information. But they don’t do a great job of protecting the user’s data.” In particular, she singles out what she sees as a long history of misleading information. “When you go and reformat your computer, like a Windows system, it tells you that all of your data will be erased. In actuality that’s not accurate — the data is still available.” Fortunately, it is possible to sanitize an Xbox hard drive by hooking it to your computer and running a program like Darik’s Boot & Nuke , she says. Podhradsky does not appear to have published research on other consoles, though, so PlayStation 3 or Wii users might want to wait before calling out Microsoft for poor security.

 Used Xboxes can be hacked for credit card information, researcher says | The Verge.

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Teacher’s aide fired for refusing to hand over Facebook password | ZDNet

Teacher’s aide fired for refusing to hand over Facebook password

By Emil Protalinski | April 1, 2012


Summary: Kimberly Hester, a teacher’s aide at an elementary school, was fired last year for refusing to give her Facebook password to her supervisors. She is now fighting a legal battle with the school district.



You can add this one to the short but growing list of employers demanding access to Facebook accounts. After refusing to give her Facebook password to her supervisors, Kimberly Hester was fired by Lewis Cass Intermediate School District from her job as an aide to Frank Squires Elementary in Cassopolis, Michigan. She is now fighting a legal battle with the school district.

This all started in April 2011, when Hester was using Facebook on her own time (when she wasn’t working at the school). She jokingly posted a picture of a co-worker’s pants around her ankles and a pair of shoes, with the caption “Thinking of you.”

A parent and Facebook friend of Hester’s saw the photo and complained to the school. A few days later, Lewis Cass ISD superintendent Robert Colby asked her three times for access to her Facebook account. Hester refused each of the district superintendent’s requests.

Soon after, Colby wrote Hester a letter, a part of which said the following, according to WSBT: “…in the absence of you voluntarily granting Lewis Cass ISD administration access to you[r] Facebook page, we will assume the worst and act accordingly.” Hester says he put her on paid administrative leave and eventually suspended her. She chose unpaid leave, to collect workman’s compensation, and vowed to put up a fight.

“I stand by it,” Hester said in a statement. “I did nothing wrong. And I would not, still to this day, let them in my Facebook. And I don’t think it’s OK for an employer to ask you.”

Hester plans to use the letter she received from Lewis in her legal case against the school district. The two parties are scheduled for arbitration in May. She will have a tough time given that there is currently no law barring her employer from asking for access to her Facebook account, although the issue has been put under a spotlight recently (see links below).

Michigan State Representatives Matt Lori and Aric Nesbitt have contacted Hester to let her know they are including her story in House Bill 5523, which aims to make it illegal for employers to ask employees and prospective employees for their Facebook password. Michigan is one of several states currently pushing for legislation that would make such practice illegal.

See also:

·         House votes down stopping employers asking for Facebook passwords

·         US senators: Investigate employers asking for Facebook passwords

·         Facebook: No plans to sue employers asking for your password

·         Senator vows to stop employers asking for your Facebook password

·         Facebook: Legal action against employers asking for your password

·         ACLU: Employers demanding Facebook passwords is privacy invasion

·         School district demands Facebook password, 12-year-old girl sues

·         Employer demands Facebook login credentials during interview

 Teacher’s aide fired for refusing to hand over Facebook password | ZDNet.

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Study Finds China Censorship Of Social Media Is Real, Pervasive | threatpost

March 26, 2012, 2:41PM

Study Finds China Censorship Of Social Media Is Real, Pervasive


by Paul Roberts

ChinaA study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University has concluded that Chinese social media sites are deleting messages with content that might be construed as controversial by the Communist Party – the first conclusive evidence that state censorship extends to social media sites like Sina Weibo, the popular micro blogging Web site that many have likened to a Chinese Twitter.

The study, published on the Web site of First Monday, an online publication of the University of Illinois, Chicago, finds that censors in China delete around 16 percent of the messages submitted to Sina Weibo, the popular micro blogging Web site that many have likened to a Chinese version of  Twitter.

The study, released in March, concludes that “soft censorship” in China – the removal of controversial subject matter from blogs and Web pages – is at least as popular as hard censorship, like the blocking of offensive sites. The result is suppression of news about events or individuals that are deemed threatening to the ruling Communist party.

The study is one of the most comprehensive attempts to quantify online censorship of social media within China. It was conducted by Noah A. Smith, an Associate Professor in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), along with two CMU graduate students: David Bamman and Brendan O’Connor.

Jiang Zemin, Ai Weiwei and Liu Xiaobo on Twitter (solid) and Sina (dashed): (courtesy of University of Illinois, Chicago)Jiang Zemin, Ai Weiwei and Liu Xiaobo on Twitter (solid) and Sina (dashed): (courtesy of University of Illinois, Chicago)

Chinese government blocking of Western services like Twitter and Facebook make domestic services like Sina Weibo the best source of information about the extent of political censorship and the resultant social media behavior of users, the researchers wrote. In their study, they captured and analyzed 56 million messages from Sina Weibo, the Mainland’s microblogging site, between June and September, 2011. Researchers then sampled over a million of those 56 million messages after allowing three months to pass in order to detect evidence of soft censorship, such as individual messages or entire accounts that had been deleted from the service. 

The results suggest that government censorship, though not total, is quite common. The researchers discovered that 212,583 of 1.3 million messages that were checked had been deleted from Sina Weibo – a bit more than 16 percent.

As part of their work, the CMU researchers developed a novel way of detecting “forbidden” terms. Rather than formulating a list of terms in advance, the researchers identified then monitored around 10,000 chinese language tweets on Twitter, which is not subject to Chinese government censorship. They then compared the incidence of certain terms that the researchers describe as “highly salient in real public discourse” by Chinese speaking people using services like Twitter and Sina Weibo.

In one example, researchers looked at posts on Sina Weibo concerning rumors about the death of Communist Party head Jiang Zemin in late June and early July, 2011. They found what they called a “striking pattern of deletion,” with 64 of 83 messages in their sample set containing Jiang’s name deleted (77 percent) on July 6, and 29 of 31 messages (93 percent) on July 7. Those numbers held up when researchers then combed over the entire corpus of 56 million Sina Weibo messages they harvested. Of the 33,363 messages found to contain at least one of the sensitive terms, 5,811 (or 17.4 percent) had been deleted.

The researchers also examined the frequency of appearance of banned terms like “Jiang Zemin,” “Ai Weiwei” (artist and political activist) and “Liu Xiaobo” (political activist and Nobel Prize winner) on Sina and Twitter. They found that all the terms appear several orders of magnitude more frequently on Twitter than they do on Sina Weibo.

The use of soft censorship such as message deletion allows the government to enforce its ban on what it considers politically volatile speech, without overtly blocking attempts by citizens to broach sensitive topics online, researchers said.

Social Media Censorship in China by region: (Courtesy of University of Chicago, Illinois)Social Media Censorship in China by region: (Courtesy of University of Chicago, Illinois)

And, although Chinese censorship is portrayed monolithically in the Western media, the researchers found that censorship is not uniform across the Mainland. The rate of posts that are deleted in provinces in the far west and north of China, such as Tibet and Qinghai, have much higher rates of deletion (53 percent) than in eastern provinces and cities (around 12 percent), the researchers found. Furthermore, as the deletion rate suggests, Chinese censorship is not foolproof: many messages expressing opinions that run counter to Chinese government positions were not deleted, suggesting an element of randomness to the censorship that does occur.

The researchers concluded that the anecdotal reports of government censorship of social media are accurate. “There exists a certain set of terms whose presence in a message leads to a higher likelihood for that message’s deletion,” they said.

 Study Finds China Censorship Of Social Media Is Real, Pervasive | threatpost.

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TSA bars security guru from perv scanner testimony • The Register

The Register® — Biting the hand that feeds IT

TSA bars security guru from perv scanner testimony


Last minute excuse blocks Bruce Schneier

Security expert Bruce Schneier was been banned at the last minute from testifying in front of congress on the efficacy – or otherwise – of the US Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) much-maligned perv scanners.

Schneier is a long-time critic of the TSA’s policies for screening travelers, and was formally invited to appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearings. However, the TSA objected to his presence because he is currently involved in a legal case over the use of said scanners in US airports.

 “I was looking forward to sitting next to a TSA person and challenging some of their statements. That would have been interesting,” Schneier toldThe Register. “The request to appear came from the committee itself, because they’d been reading my stuff on this and thought it would be interesting.”

Schneier, who is currently involved in an Economist debate on just this issue, has criticized the TSA’s procedures as “security theater“, designed to give the appearance of security without actually being effective. He has pointed out that the scanners are easily defeated, and that since people who do have items are merely forced to give them up and sent on their way, terrorists simply need to send enough people through the systems until one of them succeeds.

This isn’t the first time the TSA has been less than willing to have itself subject to anything like the same scrutiny that aircraft passengers are routinely put through. Last year they ducked out of similar hearings at the last minute, apparently because they didn’t want to sit next to representatives from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

The use of the perv scanners is highly controversial. The TSA has spent millions of dollars to buy them, and the industry hired ex–Homeland Security supremo Michael Chertoff as a lobbyist to push the technology. However, there have been numerous examples of people claiming to be able to beat the scanners, concerns about the health implications of scanning, and the so-called “homosexual” pat-downs introduced to encourage people to use them caused a national day of protest.

There are currently several ongoing legal cases against the scanners, including one recent case in which, it is claimed, attractive female subjects were being repeatedly ordered to use the devices. Personal airport searches have to be performed by a member of the same sex as the target, but no such rules are in place for operators of the scanners.

“I think the TSA has really painted themselves into a corner over this,” Schneier told us. “They’ve said the scanners were absolutely necessary for security, and made the pat downs you can have as an alternatives so unpleasant. It’s going to be really hard for them to back down, if indeed they can.”

 TSA bars security guru from perv scanner testimony • The Register.

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Your privacy is a sci-fi fantasy | Data Center – InfoWorld

MARCH 26, 2012

Your privacy is a sci-fi fantasy

What if our personal information wasn’t digital and the collectors weren’t machines?

By Paul Venezia | InfoWorld

The assault on personal privacy has ramped up significantly in the past few years. Fromwarrantless GPS tracking to ISP packet inspection, it seems that everyone wants to get in on the booming business of clandestine snooping — even blatant prying, if you consider reports ofemployers demanding Facebook passwords prior to making hiring decisions.

What happened? Did the rules change? What is it about digital information that’s convinced some people this is OK? Maybe the right to privacy we were told so much about has simply become old-fashioned, a barrier to progress. In search of an answer, I tried a little thought experiment. Follow me, if you will, on a journey to a place in the space-time continuum I call the Land Before the Internet…

Through the looking glass
One bright sunny morning in the Land Before the Internet, you go on a job interview. You’re smart, skilled, motivated, and clearly destined to be an asset to any company that hires you. During the interview process, however, just as the HR manager begins to discuss the benefits package and salary, basically communicating that you have the job, he pauses.

“Oh, and we have a few procedural things to take care of,” he says. “We’ll need to assign a goon to follow you around with a parabolic microphone to listen to all of your conversations with friends, and we’ll have a few more follow your friends and family around to see what they’re saying.”

He continues: “Also, we’ll need full access to your diary, your personal records, and your photo albums. In fact, we’ll need the keys to your house, so we can rifle through your stuff to see what you have tucked away in the attic and whatnot. We will also need to do the same to all your friends. I assume that won’t be a problem?”

Just across town in the Land Before the Internet, a few officers in the local police station are bored, so they assign a few cruisers to shadow people at random, for an indefinite period of time. They pick names out of the phone book — selecting citizens who’ve otherwise raised no cause for suspicion — and follow them, simply because they can.

The cops meticulously document the citizens’ comings and goings, creating a very detailed report on their daily lives, complete with where they go, how long they stay, and when they return to their homes. They note when they go to the doctor, where they pick up their kids, everything. They maintain the tail for months or longer, then keep these reports forever.

It turns out that the police in the Land Before the Internet aren’t half as busy as the employees at the post office, who’ve been opening and reading every single letter you’ve sent and received — or the people at the phone company, who are assigned to listen to every phone call you make and transcribe the contents for easy search and recall at a later date. You could avoid their prying ears by speaking in code, but this would be documented as an attempt to evade eavesdropping, which is clearly an indicator that you’re engaging in some sort of nefarious activity. For instance, you might infringe on a copyright down the line, perhaps by singing a few bars of “In the Year 2525” to a friend over the phone.

Welcome to the twilight zone
Of course, these upside-down horrors are unimaginable in real life. The idea that the post office or phone company would snoop is just crazy — except it’s pretty much what the major ISPs are now volunteering to do. Police stalking innocent citizens could never happen in the United States, at least not without a judge’s approval — unless it means sticking GPS devices on their cars. And under no circumstances would we allow the prospect of gainful employment to be contingent on the abrogation of someone’s personal privacy — but we might need to examine your Facebook page.

These invasions of personal privacy are occurring now because they’re suddenly very easy to accomplish. The rapid advancements in processing power and storage have opened the door to the wholesale collection and storage of vast amounts of data that can be indexed and tied (however loosely) to individuals. There’s no way that any of these entities would have the means or personnel to do this Big Brother nonsense physically, but once those communications occur over the network, they think they’re fair game.

There are many instances where digital surveillance is a good idea and essentially required because of the medium: people working on highly secure defense projects, those working with sensitive information for corporations that could be a target of corporate espionage, and obviously those in positions that require interaction with information on private individuals that should not be disseminated. The use of digital monitoring and data collection is very important in these places.

Further, if you’re employed by a company, using corporate resources, you relinquish some right to privacy in order to protect the company from internal sabotage or damages that might ensue from vital internal planning, innovations, or intellectual property falling into the hands of the competition. In short, if you’re at the office running your mouth on Facebook and IM about sensitive internal information and get fired for it, it’s your fault. You’re unlikely to get fired for bitching about your ex-husband to a friend in an IM from your work PC, but don’t be surprised to know that your conversations are being monitored and recorded in an effort to crack down on the former.

However, that should not extend beyond the office or into your personal time and space. Invasive digital eavesdropping and coerced access to private social networking applications is an absurd example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In an effort to find the needle, we’re burning down the haystack.


 Your privacy is a sci-fi fantasy | Data Center – InfoWorld.

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F.T.C. Seeks Privacy Legislation –

U.S. Agency Seeks Tougher Consumer Privacy Rules


Published: March 26, 2012


The Federal Trade Commission on Monday called for greater regulation of the data collection companies that compile a wide range of personal and financial information about millions of consumers, and asked for a provision that would allow people access to the information collected on them.

Jin Lee/Bloomberg News

Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission.

The recommendation was part of a sweeping set of guidelines put forth in the commission’s final report on online consumer privacy. In it, the F.T.C. advocates enacting legislation that would provide more restrictions and transparency for these so-called data brokers, which create detailed user profiles of buyers based on their spending habits, both online and offline. The brokers then sell the information to retailers and marketers.

In its report, the F.T.C. also commended efforts by industry trade groups and technology companies to enact a “do not track” mechanism that allows consumers to choose not to have their personal data collected online. But the commission called for businesses to “accelerate the pace” of self-regulation. Many retailers and digital ad companies use that data to display specific ads online that are tailored to the buyer’s interests; some of them will follow users around the Web.

Companies are resisting “do not track” legislation and instead contend they can discipline themselves. Last month, federal regulators, members of advertising trade groups and technology companies announced their support for a consumer privacy bill of rights issued by the White House and agreed to honor a voluntary “do not track” system.

The report comes as consumer groups and privacy advocates are expressing increasing concern about the volume of consumer data that is being collected and how it is being used. These groups want legislation that gives users more control over the information collected on them.

The F.T.C. said it intends to work with the White House and the Commerce Department on proposals they unveiled last month to develop voluntary industrywide codes of conduct that the F.T.C. can enforce. The F.T.C. also will push for legislation; while Jon Leibowitz, the chairman of the F.T.C., said the commission did not endorse any specific legislation, he mentioned a bill introduced in the Senate in April 2011 by John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and John McCain, Republican of Arizona.

That bill seeks to require companies to tell consumers what data are being collected and allow them to opt out of the practice; in addition, consumers would have the right to be required to opt in to the collection of sensitive information, like those related to medical conditions.

At least two other bills have also been introduced in Congress. One, by Senator John D. Rockefeller 4th, Democrat of West Virginia, supports a mandatory “do not track” mechanism within every Internet browser. Representative Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, proposed a bill with an opt-out mechanism for data collection, and Representatives Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, have offered a bill enhancing children’s privacy online, something the F.T.C. report also supports.

None of that legislation is likely to make it into law in this Congressional session, however, given the heavy schedule of pending matters and re-election campaigns. But Mr. Leibowitz said he expects it to occur early in the next Congress. “If a real do-not-track option doesn’t come to fruition by the end of the year,” he said, “there will be, I don’t want to say a tsunami of support for do-not-track legislation next Congress, but certainly a lot of support for the notion of do-not-track.”

The F.T.C. suggested the guidelines would not affect small business or companies that collect online data from 5,000 people or fewer and do not sell that data to third parties. It would also loosen the guidelines for companies that collect data for the purposes consistent with the context of a user’s visit to a particular Web site. For example, if a user visits a Web site to make a purchase, the company would be able to collect data on that user and would not be required to offer consumers the option to opt out of data collection.

  “If companies adopt our final recommendations for best practices — and many of them already have — they will be able to innovate and deliver creative new services that consumers can enjoy without sacrificing their privacy,” Mr. Leibowitz said in a statement. “We are confident that consumers will have an easy-to-use and effective do-not-track option by the end of the year because companies are moving forward expeditiously to make it happen and because lawmakers will want to enact legislation if they don’t.”

The commission announced two workshops to be held this year that will address data privacy on mobile devices and social media Web sites and by Internet service providers and operating systems. The agency also said it would work with the Department of Commerce to create enforceable self-regulatory codes of conduct for companies that collect data in specific sectors, such as mobile and social media.

 F.T.C. Seeks Privacy Legislation –

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Senators Want Employers’ Facebook Password Requests Reviewed –

Senators Question Employer Requests for Facebook Passwords

Published: March 25, 2012


Two Democratic senators are asking Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to investigate whether employers asking for Facebook passwords during job interviews are violating federal law, their offices announced Sunday.

Troubled by reports of the practice, Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said they were calling on the Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to begin investigations. The senators are sending letters to the heads of the agencies.

The Associated Press reported last week that some private and public agencies around the country were asking job seekers for their social media credentials. The practice has alarmed privacy advocates, but its legality remained murky.

On Friday, Facebook warned employers not to ask job applicants for their passwords, presumably so they could view applicant profiles on the site. The company threatened legal action against applications that violated its longstanding policy against sharing passwords.

A Facebook executive cautioned that if an employer discovered that a job applicant is a member of a protected group, the employer might be vulnerable to claims of discrimination if it did not hire that person.

Personal information such as gender, race, religion and age are often displayed on a Facebook profile — all details that are protected by federal employment law.

Not sharing passwords is a basic tenet of online conduct. Aside from the privacy concerns, Facebook considers the practice a security risk.

“In an age where more and more of our personal information — and our private social interactions — are online, it is vital that all individuals be allowed to determine for themselves what personal information they want to make public and protect personal information from their would-be employers. This is especially important during the job-seeking process, when all the power is on one side of the fence,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement.

Specifically, the senators want to know if the practice violates the Stored Communications Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Those two acts, respectively, prohibit intentional access to electronic information without authorization and intentional access to a computer without authorization to obtain information.

The senators also want to know whether two court cases relating to supervisors asking current employees for social media credentials could be applied to job applicants.

The senators said they were writing a bill to fill in any gaps not covered by current laws.

 Senators Want Employers’ Facebook Password Requests Reviewed –

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Should Employers Be Allowed to Ask for Your Facebook Login? – Alexis Madrigal – Technology – The Atlantic

Should Employers Be Allowed to Ask for Your Facebook Login? 

FEB 19 2011

Update 2/22, 5:11pm: The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has suspended the practice of asking for Facebook login information for 45 days, according to an email they sent to The Atlantic. See our full story on the development.

The American Civil Liberties Union has taken up the cause of a Maryland man who was forced to cough up his Facebook password during a job interview with the Department of Corrections in that state. 

According to an ACLU letter sent to the Maryland Department of Corrections, the organization requires that new applicants and those applying for recertifications give the government “their social media account usernames and personal passwords for use in employee background checks.”

The ACLU calls this policy “a frightening and illegal invasion of privacy” and I can’t say that I disagree. Keep in mind that this isn’t looking at what you’ve posted to a public Twitter account; the government agency here could look through private Facebook messages, which seems a lot like reading through your mail, paper or digital.

While it’s not surprising that some employers might want to snoop in your social media life, it strikes me as a remarkable misapprehension of what Facebook is to think that it should be wholly open for background investigations. Legally, things are probably more complex, but it seems commonsensical that carte blanche access to your communications should be off-limits.

The case also shows a downside to Facebook’s scale. It stands to reason that the bigger they get, the more that employers and others concerned with the age-old enterprise of covering their asses will feel the need to know what their employees are up to on the service. That alone isn’t going to derail the Facebook juggernaut, but it might slow down people’s engagement on the site as they realize maybe a private, unknown e-mail account is a better way of sending sensitive messages.

Here’s the Maryland man, Officer Robert Collins, describing what happened in his specific case:

<embed src=’’ height=’493′ width=’600′ allowscriptaccess=’always’ allowfullscreen=’true’ flashvars=”&bandwidth=5000&dock=false&”/>Should Employers Be Allowed to Ask for Your Facebook Login? – Alexis Madrigal – Technology – The Atlantic.

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