Bill proposed to ban bosses from asking for Facebook passwords

Posted Apr 29, 2012 by Anne Sewell
There has been much concern about potential employers requesting Facebook passwords from job applicants at interviews. Now gradually bills are being introduced to put an end to this idea.
Many potential employees have been told they must give up their passwords, or not get the job. Now people in power are saying that this invasion of privacy is just not on.
Maryland was the first state to propose legislation banning employers from making such demands. The bill will prevent managers from snooping on password-protected content, in the case of both job seekers and employees.
Now the same bill is being submitted to the U.S. Congress, under the name of the Social Networking Online Protection Act.
In a statement by Rep. Eliot Engel, co-sponsor of the draft bill, "No one would feel comfortable going to a public place and giving out their username and passwords to total strangers. They should not be required to do so at work, at school, or while trying to obtain work or an education. This is a matter of personal privacy and makes sense in our digital world.”
If the new bill is signed into law, violators will be fined $10,000 in a civil penalty.
And now Michigan, Illinois and California may possibly follow suit with a similar bill.
Associated Press reported in March describing how some employers were demanding that job applicants give up passwords for their Facebook accounts. The employers wished to check private data for damaging or embarrassing information which could potentially harm the employer. Outrage ensued over this report.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Catherine Crump responded to the news reports with:
"It’s an invasion of privacy for private employers to insist on looking at people’s private Facebook pages as a condition of employment or consideration in an application process. People are entitled to their private lives. You’d be appalled if your employer insisted on opening up your postal mail to see if there was anything of interest inside. It’s equally out of bounds for an employer to go on a fishing expedition through a person’s private social media account."
Other critics have said that asking for a Facebook password is equivalent to asking for the keys to the applicant's house. One law professor interviewed by AP called it: "an egregious privacy violation."
Proponents of the practice simply compare it to asking neighbors and friends when performing a routine background research.
When the problem started hitting the news, Facebook itself pledged to advise policymakers to curb this practice and even threatened legal action on the grounds of privacy concerns.
Hopefully all states will gradually introduce the same bill to protect the privacy of both potential and actual employees.