The company cited a “distressing increase” in reports of employers demanding the Facebook profile passwords of employees and job applicants.

Facebook chief privacy officer Erin Egan said in a statement today: “Facebook takes your privacy seriously.

“We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges.”

The statement follows a report from the Associated Press that claimed job applicants are being asked for their Facebook username and password.

The report suggests that some companies are choosing to vet applicants at interview by demanding login information so that they can poke around their profile.

The practice is aimed at applicants who are using privacy settings that prevent an employer from looking at their profile.

Some companies appear to be skirting around asking for login information by asking applicants to ‘friend’ their human resources manager instead.

Sharing or soliciting a password is a violation of Facebook’s user agreement.

“As a user, you shouldn’t be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job,” Facebook said.

And the company pointed out that the practice was not in an employer’s favour either: “If an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don’t hire that person.”