New Maryland Bill Looks to Ban Social Media Password Requests by Employers
April 11, 2012 11:54 AM
Maryland would be the first U.S. state to restrict employers from asking for this information
After encountering a few incidents where employers asked applicants and employees to surrender their social networking usernames and passwords, the state of Maryland has become the first in the U.S. to pass a bill that would prevent employers from asking for this information.
The bill, which passed unanimously in the Senate and by a large number in the House of Delegates just last week, is now waiting to be signed by Governor Martin O'Malley. If he signs the bill, Maryland would be the first state to prohibit such an act.
The bill was drafted in response to recent issues with
Maryland employers asking for Facebook emails and passwords
in order to investigate who they're considering for hire.
Some business groups, such as the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, have argued that employers need the information from social networking sites like Facebook to see who they're really hiring; not just the person that the applicant chooses to show.
However, human rights group American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) disagreed, saying that this practice is invasive to those who were not aware that they would have to share such information on a job interview.
Last year, ACLU pursued a complaint from Robert Collins, a corrections officer at the Maryland Department of Corrections. According to Collins, who was already an employee at the Maryland Department of Corrections, his employer asked for his Facebook email and password. His co-workers were asked for this information as well.
"My fellow officers and I should not have to allow the government to view our personal Facebook posts and those of our friends just to keep our jobs," said Collins.
After the ACLU put up a fight, the Maryland Department of Corrections stopped asking for social networking usernames and passwords from both employees and applicants. However, it found a loophole and simply asked that applicants log onto their Facebook accounts themselves right in front of the employer.
According to Melissa Goemann, legislative director of ACLU of Maryland, another state corrections officer contacted the ACLU about a similar case where employers had asked for Facebook emails and passwords to dig for information. Also, seven potential prison guards out of 2,689 applicants were
denied jobs due to Maryland employers using social networks
to assess the people applying.
Goemann said the new bill would be a helpful tool for Maryland residents.
"We just think this is a really positive development because the technology for
social media is expanding every year
, and we think this sets a really good precedent for limiting how much your privacy can be exposed when you use these mediums," said Goemann.
This new bill isn't the only effort to stop employers from snooping social networks for dirt on employees. The issue may be taken to the federal level, with U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) asking the Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to look into the topic.
The Baltimore Sun
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