Tag Archives: Facebook

The ageless issue of privacy at work

A bill amendment proposed yesterday – if passed – would allow potential employers to demand for your Facebook or other social media passwords during company investigations for employees in Washington state. Odd this amendment’s goal is – as one of the original bill’s sole purposes was to bar employers from even requesting for social media passwords during a job interview. Instead, this amendment decided to take the argument in the opposite direction and actually restrict our right to privacy as paid employees even further. Specifically – the amendment allows an employer to ‘require or demand’ access to a personal account if this current employee – or any prospective employees – has allegations of work-place misconduct, where the allegation would require an official investigation to determine legitimacy.

However even the small amount of literature concerning the investigation is spotty and non-specific at best, which in turn has most people worried about the potential for exploitation in this amendment. The general consensus among the opposed is obviously reasoned, “why on earth should employees be held responsible for what they do on a social networking site”, especially as the national trend is moving away from this type of thing. In fact – seven states this year have banned employers from asking applicants/employees social network passwords, and 33 states are considering similar legislation.

So why is this issue so important, and why now? My main question here is why employers all of a sudden deem it necessary rip open your private, digital life in order to meet hiring requirements. How has technology changed in the past couple years, causing this issue to become relevant and important today?  Has there been a ‘low-tech’ (i.e. not an online social) network of this kind to facilitate the breaching of employer-employee privacy in the past?

Facebook withdraws support of CISPA

I found this article on CNET and believe it ties in very nicely with our class discussions about privacy. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is a proposed law in the USA which would allow the government to “investigate cyber threats and ensure the security of networks against cyberattack” by allowing the government to have access to Internet traffic information from many U.S. companies. The bill would overrule all existing federal and state laws by saying “notwithstanding any other provision of law.” Opponents of the bill say that the bill will “waive every single privacy law ever enacted in the name of cybersecurity” and U.S. Representative Ron Paul has even gone so far as to call the bill “Big Brother writ large.” The bill is supported by many telecommunications and information technology companies such as AT&T, IBM, INTEL, Oracle Corporation, Symantec, and Verizon. Facebook supported the bill until very recently when they withdrew support to promote consumer privacy.


I find this bill to be offensive and very much so an invasion of individual privacy. I am supportive of Facebook withdrawing from the bill as I believe it is detrimental to the quality of privacy for American citizens,  although I question Facebook’s motive for withdrawing as they did not withdraw until they went under the heat of a petition created to convince Mark Zuckerberg otherwise. I think it is very possible that Mark Zuckerberg may still support the petition, but is afraid to admit it due to consumer backlash and Facebook’s privacy issues in the past.


I think that if you look at the bill from a utilitarian point of view, it results in decreased happiness for all involved. Although some may argue that the decrease in cybercrime may increase happiness for all involved, I do not believe that the bill would be that effective in preventing or stopping crime and would mostly serve to annoy and scare many U.S. citizens.  I believe the bill would be used to prosecute people committing less threatening cybercrimes (downloading illegal music, movies, etc.) much, much more than it would ever have the potential to stop greater cybercrimes (overseas hacking, child abduction, etc.).

I am interested to hear what the rest of you think about this. Also, If you do think this bill would be effective, I encourage you to convince me otherwise.