Legislation to Be Introduced Governing Use of Social Media in Background Checks

March 30, 2012

Two key Senators are expected to introduce legislation to prohibit employers from asking for social media passwords from prospective employees, despite the absence of any evidence that it is a widespread practice.  Acting on "reports in the media," Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have sent letters to the Justice Department and the EEOC asking them to investigate whether such requests violate existing law.  They cite recent court cases finding violations of two federal statues relating computer data.  They also express concern that "collecting this sensitive information under the guise of a background check may simply be a pretext for discrimination."  The potential for legislation raises the usual concerns that arise when Congress legislates against a problem that may not exist, generating the possibility of legitimate practices also being covered inadvertently.