States Ban Demands for Social Media Passwords

If you’re the type of person who enjoys posting potentially career-ending comments or photos on social media sites, you’ll be happy to know several states are angling to help enable your self-sabotage.

Illinois is now the third state to pass a law that prohibits companies from asking employees or job seekers for their social media user names and passwords. It’s an amendment to the state’s “Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act” and makes it unlawful to “request or require any employee or prospective employee to provide any password or other related account information” about their social media networks.

Employers, however, still have the right to monitor employees’ computers. In other words, this means you’ll have to do your self-destructive Twittering from home.

The first two states to pass this kind of privacy laws were Maryland and Delaware. Several other states, including California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York and Washington, are lining up to do the same.

Why is this happening now?

Driving this change is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has taken an interest in protecting workers’ First Amendment rights of freedom of speech.

School systems, in particular, have increasingly been digging deeper into the personal lives of their teachers by investigating their social media presence. In some cases, it’s even led to the firing of educators who refuse to hand over their passwords, a practice the Council of State Governments has been trying to swat down.

Interest in this controversy is also reaching the federal level as well. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have called on the Department of Justice to investigate whether the practice of asking for social media passwords violates the Stored Communication Act, or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

No matter how all this legislation ultimately evolves, you do know how to behave on social media in both your personal and professional lives…right?

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7 Responses to “States Ban Demands for Social Media Passwords”

  1. Computer Science Grad

    One of the policies of any social media site is to ‘NOT GIVE OUT YOUR PASSWORD’
    It was stupid for anyone in a position of authority over others in a work environment to ask for an employees username and password. The individuals who were terminated from their teaching profession should have sued the school system and fought to gain their job back.

  2. NutMotion

    It’s not just direct “suicidal behavior” on social media which it the problem here (ie not just criticizing your employer on Facebook, or posting content that show you’re a real junkie in your private life).

    The problem also has to do with all pervading lobbies. I for example am proud to post content under my real name on Facebook, sometimes strongly voicing my opinions against the banksters, corrupt politicians and MSM.

    But I know too, that, no matter what kind of job I’m currently holding or seeking, if TPTB get access to this data, it has the power to destroy my career and life, if needed.

    They should not be allowed to access that data.

  3. If a company wants to monitor what an employee posts on social media sites, so be it. But to ask for a user name and password is asinine. That would allow the company to log into the site and act on behalf of the applicant/employee. There are so many things wrong with this I don’t even know where to start. I don’t even ask for my employees to “friend” me on these sites, and can’t imagine why employers feel the need to require a password. What if an employer required your bank account credentials to make sure you are financially sound? Should they also have login credentials to your personal email account? iTunes? After all, we should make sure the applicant doesn’t listen to bad music. Where would this end?

  4. The solution is easy. Refuse to become a wage slave to a company that wants to control your every move. This should already tell you something vital about your future employer. Just move on. Let some other nerd have the job.

  5. I would consider it more of a general security concern than anything else. Who knows what other sites they would get into as well? Would they hack into my Amazon account and order on my credit card? I guard my employer’s computer systems and passwords and do not hand them out to others. I expect no less from any legitimate company.

  6. DigitalC

    We ask our prospective employees to sign our social media policy below, but we would never ask for passwords. Geez!

    Our policy for those interested:
    The Company reserves the right to use social media sites including, but not limited to, and to gain further knowledge about job applicants. The Company will uphold all laws relating to hiring or in any decision affecting job status.
    Information gathered on these sites such as age, race, ethnicity religion or disabilities will not affect the hiring process under Equal Employment Opportunity laws. The Company will also not use a third-party screening company to screen social media sites without proper notification as listed under the FCRA. The Company will only use information found on the social media sites to fact check a potential employee’s resume and may use findings to supplement interview questions.
    Submitting your resume and/or interviewing hereafter indicates you have read, understand and agree to our social media policy and furthermore consent to same.
    Signing below indicates receipt of this policy.

  7. Glenn Shorkey

    (Pretty sure you meant otherwise about “several states angling to ENABLE self-destruction” Don.
    Only 3 so far might be a question to ask too.

    I confess to putting the knock on current company, never actually mentioning by name, but I don’t hide mine when I blog about anything relative to negative mgmnt practices. (In my specific case, that is caring almost zero about sales associate sales volume or paying lip service to customer service aspect and focusing myopically on ‘Did you get a credit card application?’) I’m also VERY aware of the axiom, “Once its out there, its out there forever” which is probably an extension of old journalistic thought, “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want your Mom to read on front page.”

    While I sometimes feel ACLU slices things a little too thin and, like Teamsters perhaps, keeps ‘bad’ people in positions they shouldn’t be, NO WAY should employers be asking for passwords. That ‘if not doing wrong, nothing to worry about’ crap doesn’t cut it. Monitoring anything done on company equipment or time– including laptop if company provided–is legit, and I HATE having to have new 245 page regulations every time something like this comes up.

    we’ve seen how pervasive any investigation effort can become, from tabloid phone hacking to any CSI series (apparently within 2 minutes or a half-dozen keystrokes), but allowing *anybody* to have passwords is like expecting cops to ignore kiddie porn in back seat because they’re supposedly looking for drugs–you WILL get jammed up!