Facebook Friend or Boss?: Bill would protect passwords from employers

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By Nick Powell Big Brother wants your Facebook password. A spate of complaints regarding companies requiring applicants and employees to divulge login information for social media accounts has forced the hand of state Sen. Liz Krueger, who introduced legislation recently that would ban such practices. Krueger cited the obvious privacy concerns as well as liability issues for employers as the primary catalysts for the bill. "Companies might think it's fine for them to ask for the login information, but in fact you may be creating a legal minefield for the employers themselves," said Krueger. "All of this ties into the new world that we're living in. Now everything is online, so it becomes normal." Part of the problem, Krueger said, is that we have not figured out rules and etiquette for new technologies. A Facebook user herself, she is not blind to its merits, such as keeping in touch with her nieces and nephews, but she makes sure that what she and they are posting is appropriate. Nonetheless, Krueger said she sees no justification for companies requesting social media logins when there are myriad ways for companies to do background checks. "If a company tries to screen you for your employability they can crosscheck you in a million different ways," said Krueger. "I don't think we should be going the next step where a company can say, 'Give me all of your passwords so I can hire or fire you.' " The bill, titled S. 6938, would make it illegal for employers to demand an employee's or applicant's personal login credentials or password. Krueger mentioned that she expects the bill to receive bipartisan support in the Senate, and that several of her Republican colleagues have already reached out to her. Maryland is the only other state with similar legislation, which passed unanimously in the Senate, and received only 10 "no" votes in the House. Krueger envisions a scenario where many states draft similar bills, driving the issue of Internet privacy to the forefront of the national consciousness. She mentioned that Sen. Chuck Schumer has already launched an investigation into the issue, in hopes of setting a federal standard for Internet privacy. "An excellent way to move forward and to get national attention on new issues is to watch what state legislatures are grappling with," she said. "I would argue the states are the laboratories for much legislation that eventually becomes federal law. I think that's a healthy model for advancing issues."

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