New Bill Introduced to Prohibit Kentucky Employers from Requesting Social Networking Passwords
As with all new technology, social networking sites are creating legal questions in all sorts of subjects, including employment law. One question being asked is whether or not a potential or current employer can ask an employee for their social media login and password information.
Employers take the stance that this information is valuable to them in getting a feeling for an employee’s character and may alert them to any unsavory or illegal activity an employee may be involved in. While this seems logical, there are many reasons why employers should not be given personal passwords to social networking sites.
First, login information to any site other than ones used for work purposes is personal and no one should be required to share it with anyone for any reason. Even though we are supposed to keep different passwords for all of our online accounts for security reasons, many of us still use the same or similar passwords for multiple accounts. So giving out a password to a Facebook account may also provide a prospective employer access to other online accounts such as a bank account.
Second, much of the information contained on someone’s Facebook page or other social media website could provide information to potential employers that they are not allowed to request. Ethnicity, age, marital status, religion, and medical conditions are all topics that are not to be discussed during an interview or requested on a job application because use of this information during hiring could be discriminatory. These are the very same topics that Facebook users share with their friends and family on a daily basis.
Third, not only does this practice invade the privacy of the employee, but it also allows the employer access to information regarding all of the employee’s friends and family members. The employer could be invading the privacy of hundreds of people.
Two representatives have introduced a bill called the Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA) in an attempt to stop this invasion of privacy at a federal level. Employers who disregarded the law could be forced to pay a $10,000 fine. Some states, including Illinois and Maryland, but not Kentucky, have introduced legislation making it illegal for employers to request this information from applicants or employees. The proponents of the federal bill stated in an online article:
“We cannot go backward to a time before the internet existed – we can only go forward, and a legal framework should be in place to offer basic protections and rights. In addition, sites such as Facebook have privacy settings built in, and it is not the business of employers or educators to demand an individual relinquish these protections.”
While this bill is being considered, what can Kentucky employees do to protect their privacy? If someone asks for a password to a social networking site, politely decline and discuss the matter with a Kentucky employment law attorney. Attorney Steve Frederick is located in Louisville, Kentucky and helps people throughout Indiana and Kentucky with all types of employment matters.
SNOPA addresses online privacy concerns; The Hill’s Congress Blog; Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Michael Grimm; May 15, 2012
SNOPA bill seeks to keep employers out of private social networks; LA Times; Michelle Maltais; April 30, 2012