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Maryland Becomes First State To Outlaw Requesting Facebook Passwords

Maryland Becomes First State To Outlaw Requesting Facebook Passwords

Maryland has become the first U.S. state to pass a law banning employers from asking their employees and applicants for passwords to their personal social media accounts.

And it’s about time!

The bill “prohibits an employer from requiring or requesting employees or job applicants to disclose electronic passwords, such as for social media sites.” Despite the fact that House Republicans recently killed a bill that would have instituted a federal ban against such password snooping, the Maryland law was supported by both sides of the aisle.

The bill still awaits the signature of Gov. Martin O’Malley. However, Maryland ACLU legislative director Melissa Goemann said that she hadn’t “heard anything negative [regarding the bill] from the governor’s office.”

In a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland, Melissa Goemann, Legislative Director of ACLU of Maryland, said, “We are proud of Maryland for standing up for the online privacy of employees and the friends and family members they stay in touch with online. Our state has trail-blazed a new frontier in protecting freedom of expression in the digital age, and has created a model for other states to follow.”

As Care2′s Paul Canning reported here, Senators Chuck Schumer and Richard Blumenthal  are asking the Justice Department whether the increasing practice of potential employers asking for social media access from interviewees is illegal, and are calling for an investigation into whether asking for such access breaches existing privacy legislation.

The bill passed both houses of the Maryland General Assembly in the final hours of Maryland’s 90-day legislative session on April 9. It passed with a unanimous vote in the Senate, and 128-10 in the House. Similar legislation is pending in Illinois, California, Minnesota, Michigan, and Massachusetts. A similar bill may soon be introduced in New Jersey, and Illinois’ bill has already passed its House.

Since the whole thing started in Maryland, this is entirely appropriate. The ACLU of Maryland helped Robert Collins to make headlines after his employer, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, asked for his Facebook password during a reinstatement interview after a leave of absence following a death in his family. Feeling that he had no choice, Collins turned over his password, but felt violated and disrespected. On his way out of the interview, he called the ACLU of Maryland.

Thank you, Robert Collins. You have done all of us a huge favor. Let’s work to make sure this legislation passes everywhere. After all, your online privacy belongs to you, not to your employer.

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Photo Credit: Riyed islam

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64 comments

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8:58AM PDT on May 3, 2012

If they want to view my facebook profile then they will have to find it and view it but I am sure not giving them a password.

5:06AM PDT on Apr 27, 2012

I don't get why employers would ask for passwords in the first place. I was under the impression that certain things (like privacy) were a given...

1:23PM PDT on Apr 14, 2012

The whole point of a password is to protect my privacy. Why should anyone else have a legal right to it other than law enforcement if I were using it for something illegal? Certainly not employers!

10:29PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

Great news! Now we need to make sure the same thing is passed in every state! No exceptions!

9:41PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

Thank you, Robert Collins, the ACLU, and the state of Maryland. We are reaching the point in this country where we will have no rights, no privacy rights for sure. Thank you Homeland Security and TSA for that.

7:15PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

From the UK, I must admit I was rather surprised that employers were allowed to do this, and indeed that it would be necessary for individual states to pass laws to outlaw the practice.

Surely there is a strong prima facie case that requesting passwords to people's social networking sites, using that access to search for whatever they decide they want to search for (not only on your sites but on other people's as well [friends / family]), is in breach of Article 4 of the Bill of Rights, which gives protection from "unreasonable search".

4:12AM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

Asking for passwords should be illegal. Big Brother can watch elsewhere.

3:05AM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

Woohoo! Thank you, Maryland! Asking for facebook password, what a nonsense...
Maybe we should start bringing our childhood diaries to interviews? Because that's a part of our private life before facebook was invented :D

2:30AM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

Bravo Maryland. It's about time. These "job creators" have absolutely no business being in a position to ask for any type of password for anything. If he does, can the employee demand his passwords and the passwords for every protected piece of information dealing with his business. After all, the employee needs to know the character of his employer and the right to decide if he wants to work at this particular place of business. What Religion is this potential employer, does he use birth control, what are his politics, is his business crooked or linked to Organized Crime--these are just a few of the questions that an employee should know before he agrees to work for a firm. Instead of spending time poking around in a person's private business maybe these "job creators" could spend their time doing something else --- like creating a few jobs.

6:19PM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

Excellent!!! Let us hope it spreads to other states!

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