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.
Photo Credit: Riyed islam