More Facebook Fascism

Ten days ago, I posted about this new trend of employers demanding that their employees hand over to the boss the passwords to their Facebook accounts. Yesterday, the Daily Dot reported that Kimberly Hester, a teacher’s aide in Michigan, was fired for refusing to give her password to her supervisor at the elementary school where she works. The district’s special education director wrote her: “[I]n the absence of you voluntarily granting Lewis Cass ISD administration access to you[r] Facebook page, we will assume the worst and act accordingly.” And they did.

Perhaps not coincidentally, last Tuesday, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted down a proposal that would have made it illegal for an employer to demands his or her employees’ Facebook passwords. The vote against the bill was 236-184, with only one Republican voting in favor of it.

Ah, freedom: ain’t it grand?

(Sorry about using the F word in the title; just couldn’t resist the alliteration. My weakness, I know. I’m working on it.)

h/t Dina Oh


  1. karl steel March 31, 2012 at 12:36 pm | #

    Better than the M word!

  2. Jeremy Nathan Marks March 31, 2012 at 12:41 pm | #

    I wonder if Ms. Hester has legal grounds for suing her employer. I would think so, but I don’t know what the terms of her employment are. However, seeing as how this practice of demanding Facebook accounts is new, I don’t see how it could be covered in her contract.

    But more importantly, on what legal grounds can an employer demand access to your Facebook page?

    • Corey Robin April 1, 2012 at 5:05 pm | #

      In any at-will employment situation, which applies to almost every worker who’s not in a union or government job, you can be legally fired, as the saying goes, for good reasons, bad reasons, or no reason at all. So I doubt she’d have a case.

      • Jeremy Nathan Marks April 1, 2012 at 5:25 pm | #

        Thank you for the information. I was an “at will” employee at one point and that is my recollection.

        By the way, The Reactionary Mind is excellent. I recently read it and have recommended it to many people I know.

  3. Chase March 31, 2012 at 1:29 pm | #

    And libertarians will respond by saying that if you don’t want to hand over your passwords, you don’t need to; you can find another employer. And if enough workers do the same, the market will see to it — as though by magic! — that employers won’t ask for your passwords. Problem solved, right? We all believe in freedom of contract and limited government, right? And the right to privacy, including a right to time independent of your employer’s control or surveillance — well, that’s just an alleged right, or not an important one, or somehow beside the point.

    It’s depressing.

  4. Elliot Holar March 31, 2012 at 7:55 pm | #

    Clearly, demanding access to private content is outrageous. However, what is not getting enough attention is the fact that demanding someone’s password is a form of identity theft. It’s like stealing someone’s signature. Once you have that password, you can impersonate the true owner by posting all kinds of comments in their name. And does anyone believe that administrators or employers have anything close to the security policies of credit card companies or businesses to protect your credentials? Unlikely. Let’s start challenging this for what it really is – an illegal act through and through.

  5. Mara April 1, 2012 at 1:31 pm | #

    I appreciate your point that this fb abuse is but one case of employer sense of entitlement not to employees’ labor power, but a presumption that the labor contract means the employer owns the whole employee. Ownership of the whole employee, rather than her labor power/time, is a feudal property right or social relation, not properly or ideally a capitalist labor relation.

    That the capitalist labor contract is so ubiquitously-presumed and interpreted to be a veneer for a feudal relation, so that each individual employer initiative for ownership over the whole employee (such as the present fb case) has to continuously be fought, piece-meal, over and over again, should tell us that our Anglosphere legal system (and our marginalist culture) is structured precisely to permit the capitalist contract to serve as a legitimating screen for feudal practices and relations. The courts do not have the capacity to relieve this problem. If we want something better than this abusive subterfuge, if want to put fudge-y capitalofeudal relations to bed, it requires a multi-generational social uprising.

    We have buried a toddler, let’s call her the Enlightenment, and because she was glaze-eyed and desiccated with neglect, we believe them when conservatives told us that we were burying an old man who lived a full life.

  6. Claude Horvath April 2, 2012 at 1:09 am | #

    If you knew the name of the one Republican who voted against ‘cyber disrobing’, you might have mentioned it. If you didn’t, *that* might have been stated.

    • Mark April 2, 2012 at 6:17 pm | #

      For the record, Claude, the one Republican “aye” vote for Perlmutter’s amendment was from Walter Jones of North Carolina.

  7. Ryan Clifford Daley April 3, 2012 at 1:31 pm | #

    Treating this as ID theft seems like a way that we might get around the “well, you consented to work here so we have your consent to ____ you.”

  8. Ronald Pires (@BenedictAtLarge) April 4, 2012 at 5:55 pm | #

    Facebook terms of service specifies that users passwords are to be kept private. Would “at will” employment extend to forcing an employee into breach of contract?

  9. Kimberly April 28, 2012 at 12:47 pm | #

    In my contract there was not a clause for social networks. I have a case and I will win. After my initial punishment (15 days suspended ), my employer continued to punish me. I wasn’t allied to use bathroom, not even speak to my coworkers, only one with scheduled breaks, ostracized, given demoralizing work and given several directives. MY boss harrassed me, called me names and belittled me for months! This is only the tip of the iceberg. I have documents and recordings to prove it. Thus is not OK and as Americans, we need to change this.

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