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No Password Protection: Democrats Lose Second Bid To Shield Social Media Passwords From Employers

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Rep. Mike Rogers accused Democrats of playing games with a cybersecurity bill.
Rep. Mike Rogers accused Democrats of playing games with a cybersecurity bill.

WASHINGTON -- Republicans blocked a second bid in the House to pass an amendment barring employers from demanding Facebook and other social media passwords from workers.

A similar effort failed last month, with Republicans arguing that it would not help and complaining that it was a stunt.

But that did not stop Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) from trying again. He said that letting employers or the federal government demand the passwords to workers' social media accounts was an unacceptable invasion of privacy.

"If an employer or the federal government poses as somebody by having their Facebook password, then they can impersonate, they can become an impostor," Perlmutter argued. "And it is a two-way exchange of information so that somebody who is completely unrelated to the employer is now communicating with an impostor."

Perlmutter tried to attach the amendment to the larger cybersecurity bill the House was considering. That bill's main sponsor, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), accused his colleague of playing games, as well as endangering a measure that Rogers said was vital.

"We can play games, we can do silly things. This amendment actually does nothing to protect a private password at home," Rogers argued, suggesting hackers around the globe were a much larger threat.

He also suggested that Perlmutter was acting for purely partisan gain, so that Democrats could say the GOP blocked an effort to guard people's privacy.

"I get it, sounds great. You're going to run out and do bad things with it," Rogers said. "But this is our nation's defense. This is the last bastion of things we need to do to protect this country."

A Democratic aide countered that there was no reason at all for the amendment to slow down the bill if the GOP really wanted it to pass. Other bills are being considered in the House and Senate to address the password issue, but none of them have advanced very far.

Another part of Perlmutter's amendment sought to bar the federal government from essentially pulling the plug on the Internet in times of unrest, similar to tactics used by Iran in quelling dissent there.

It failed 233 to 183, with just one Republican voting for it.