Can you imagine your employer or potential employer looking at those Facebook pictures you posted from last weekend’s night out with the girls…. Not a pleasant thought, right? You are not the only person upset or even outraged by the thought of employers and potential employers attempting to “learn more about you” by requesting social media passwords and sifting through your content.
New technology always brings new legal hurdles and protecting the privacy of employees who use social media is one such legal hurdle. When this phenomenon began employees and potential employees were unaware of whether this violated their rights and divulged the information. Whether or not this made a difference in their employment status, this intrusion int their privacy is absolutely unnecessary and crosses a line that seemingly becomes blurrier with each new phase of the technology boom.
Luckily, there have been a few state politicians that agree with need to protect the privacy rights of employees and have drafted legislation attempting to prevent this type of invasion. Right now, Maryland and Illinois and most recently California announced the passage of laws limiting and employer’s ability to request an employee’s social media password. California’s law is more comprehensive than that of its predecessors because it also protects the social media privacy of post-secondary students, similar to Delaware which has passed a law only protecting student social media privacy.
Over a dozen other states including Washington and New Jersey are still working on similar bans. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have requested the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate whether or not these social media password inquiries violated federal law.
Although only a few states have stepped up to address this issue, I encourage all employees and job-seekers to be aware that this is an invasion of your privacy and unless your employer or potential employer can show you just cause or legal standing as to why they should be provided your social media passwords, refuse. If your refusal is the difference between you getting or keeping that job you have to ask yourself, “do you want to work for a company that would seek to invade your privacy in such an obvious way.” It is almost like coming to your home and asking to do a search. Any information not made widely available is protected for a reason so if that company isn’t able to access the information open source, they need to understand that it is private.