ACLU Wants Va. State Police to Back Away From Facebook

ACLU wants police to stop reviewing prospective employees' Facebook accounts

Wednesday, Mar 28, 2012  |  Updated 11:50 AM EDT
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The ACLU wants Virginia State Police to stop reviewing Facebook during hiring.

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The Virginia State Police are taking heat for their policy of checking Facebook accounts during hiring.

The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the agency asking them to stop the practice, calling it an invasion of privacy akin to eavesdropping on a call or opening someone’s email.

“Absent a concrete reason to believe that a potential employee is engaged in wrongdoing of which his Facebook account is likely to contain evidence, these communications are simply none of the VSP's business,” Virginia ACLU’s legal director Rebecca Glenberg wrote.

The State Police, however, say they have no plans to change the policy.

“As we have stated before, we feel our investigative background process is necessary and appropriate for the job our applicants are expected to do and the authority granted to such individuals upon being hired on to the Virginia State Police,” police spokesperson Corinne Geller said in a written statement.

“There is no way the public or public interest groups would tolerate the hiring of an individual with, for example, prejudiced or racist commentary posted on a personal social media site,” Geller wrote.

Virginia State Police started the practice Jan. 1, joining a national trend of using social media as a means of background checks.

There's been controversy over employers requesting job candidates to share their Facebook passwords (which is against Facebook's terms of service). However, the Virginia State Police conduct what the ACLU calls "shoulder surfing," or asking would-be employees to log into Facebook while employers watch.

The ACLU of Virginia says this might be a violation of the Stored Communications Act, a federal law that makes it illegal to intentionally access stored electronic communications without valid authorization. 

Congress has since asked for an investigation into whether the practice is legal.

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