Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Maryland Bans Employers From Asking For Passwords Will More States Follow?

The Maryland legislature has passed legislation officially banning employers from asking for their employees' for their online passwords and/or usernames.

Earlier this month the Maryland state legislature passed bills - SB 433 and HB 964:
"Prohibiting an employer from requesting or requiring that an employee or applicant disclose any user name, password, or other means for accessing a personal account or service through specified electronic communications devices; prohibiting an employer from taking, or threatening to take, specified disciplinary actions for an employee's refusal to disclose specified password and related information; prohibiting an employee from downloading specified information or data; etc."

If signed by the governor, the bill would be become the first social media privacy protection law in the U.S..

The bills come as reports have cropped up of employers asking current and prospective employees to hand over passwords or access to their social media accounts. Several lawmakers have since joined the fret condemning the practice as objectionable and raising concerns over privacy. For its part Facebook has expressed concern  and pledged to work with policymakers to address it, as well as engage in legal action where necessary.

The question now is will other states follow suit or will we eventually see similar federal legislation?

Two U.S. senators, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, have said they will ask the Justice Department and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to look into the matter and have proposed the creation of federal legislation.

Recently Congress made a failed attempt at adding in an amendment o a larger FCC reform package that would have similarly banned current or prospective employers from requiring workers to hand over personal passwords as a condition of keeping or getting a new job.

Clearly we are seeing some progression as lawmakers in New Jersey, Illinois and California are all said to be working on state level bills. With California Democratic state Sen. Leeland Yee filling the most progressive of all bills. Yee filed a bill to block employers from not only requesting social media user names and passwords from employees or job applicants, but also bar bosses from asking for a sit-down with employees or applicants to review their social media pages or asking that the pages be printed out for review by managers.

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