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May 8, 2012

SNOPA Would Prevent Employers From Snooping

For me, Facebook has evolved from a place to connect with friends to a way to share information: companies that want to advertise their newest products and innovations and charitable organizations I support telling me about upcoming events, for example.  I like the “one-stop shop” format where I can also find out the latest breaking news.  (Whether that’s new legislation or celebrity babies – no discrimination on my news feed!)  I do my best to keep my profile information private from strangers, and some information from even my closest friends (do I really want everyone to know my political views or what type of shampoo I “like?”).

Of course, these privacy settings can be frustrating for some employers who want to know this information.  So, they ask applicants or even employees for their passwords so they can view the information firsthand.  We first talked about this a while back, in my blog.  Some groups are fired up, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is fighting back with the help of some legislators.

On April 27, 2012, the Social Networking Online Privacy Act (SNOPA) was introduced to Congress.  The ACLU believes the legislation is necessary to protect individuals who may feel powerless to resist a potential employer’s request for their username and password.  If passed, this legislation would make it illegal for employers to:

  • Access password-protected personal accounts or devices.
  • Require employees or applicants to provide Facebook passwords.
  • Put pressure on employees or applicants in indirect ways, such as “friending” them.
  • Discharge or discipline any employee who refuses to provide access to personal accounts.  This includes threatening to do so.
  • Refuse to hire anyone who will not surrender access to their private materials.

Late last week, Maryland became the first state to enact legislation similar to SNOPA.  S.B. 433 takes effect on October 1, 2012 and will prevent employers from requesting or requiring such private information.  The law also protects employees from discharge or discipline if they refuse to disclose and bars employers from refusing to hire applicants who do the same.

Maryland’s version protects employers in their right to investigate based on receipt of information about an employee’s use of personal web or similar account for business purposes in order to comply with securities or financial law or regulatory requirements.  Additionally, employees are prohibited from making unauthorized downloads of employer proprietary information to their personal website (or similar account).

California, Illinois, New York, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, South Carolina, and Washington are also in the process of similar legislation.

If you need some help with your privacy settings, check Facebook’s Help Center.

Hiring Trend Could be Invasion of Applicants’ Privacy


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