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Michael McAuliff
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Facebook Protection Amendment Voted Down In House

Posted: 03/27/2012 8:36 pm Updated: 03/29/2012 10:18 am

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WASHINGTON -- House Republicans blocked a measure Tuesday night that would have let the Federal Communications Commission prevent employers from forcing workers to reveal their Facebook passwords.

Democrats offered the legislation as part of bill to slap new restrictions on FCC rules after a string of reports about employers insisting on access to social media accounts -- a practice that some senators already want investigated by the Justice Department.

"It only makes sense because those that are using these kinds of social media have an expectation of privacy," said Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), offering the Democratic motion on the House floor. "They have an expectation that their right to free speech or their right to free religion will be respected when they use these social media outlets."

He added that "if an employer wants to pose as or impersonate the individual who had to turn over their confidential password, that employer, I think, will be able to reach into personal, private information of the user... or of the person who's communicating with them."

"If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password," Perlmutter said.

The measure failed, 184 to 236, with one Republican voting for it.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, argued that the Democratic provision did not help.

"You don't protect the consumer," Walden said. "And there are many of us who after this debate concludes and moves on, would be happy to work with you on legislation because I think this is a real issue that we all share, and that is protecting privacy. This doesn't do that."

Walden also referred to the time-lapse between when the FCC writes a rule and when it is published. "In fact, you could open the door where they (the FCC) could allow employers and licensees to go after your stuff and you wouldn't know until they published the rule," he said.

Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

CORRECTION: This story was updated to reflect one Republican vote.

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