Proposed Law Would Limit Employers’ Access to Passwords
While looking at job applicants’ publicly available information on Facebook, Twitter and other social-media accounts has become commonplace, some employers have gone further by requesting applicants' and employees' passwords for their social-media accounts, a controversial practice that Facebook recently condemned. Now, legislators are pushing back. Maryland already has a law, which will go into effect on October 1, 2012, that prohibits employers from requesting or requiring access to employees’ and applicants’ accounts. The federal government and more than a dozen states are considering similar legislation.
The proposed federal Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA) was introduced in the House of Representatives in April 2012, and the next month, a companion bill, the Password Protection Act of 2012 (PPA), was introduced in the Senate. A similar bill in Illinois passed overwhelmingly in the Illinois legislature, with a 78-to-30 vote in the House and a 55-to-0 vote in the Senate.The Illinois law will become state law if the governor signs it. Other states currently considering such laws include California, Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington.
These laws might benefit not only employees and job applicants who are concerned about their privacy, but employers as well. The Chicago Tribune quoted a social-media attorney who worked on SNOPA and Maryland’s law and who thinks these laws say that "employers do not have a duty to monitor the password-protected content of their employees. It will lower compliance costs for businesses and help ensure that they can't be held liable for negligence."
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