Facebook announced last week that it now has one billion active users. To say that it might be popular is like suggesting bacon might be from pigs. As a future social media professional, it is important to know what rights protect a future university graduate who is looking for a job.
One of the hottest topics in employment right now is the use of social media in the hiring process. Many employers are asking potential employees passwords for their social media accounts. It has sparked action from legislatures on a state and federal level.
This may seem like a grey area for students fresh out of an undergraduate ethics class. It is important to know what laws apply to social media.
Maryland was the first state to ban employers from asking for employees’ and applicants’ social media site passwords. This particular bill also prevents employers from retaliating against employees or applicants who refuse to disclose that information. This law takes effect on October 12, 2012.
There are currently 10 other states who are proposing similar laws at this time (CA, DE, MI, MN, NJ, NY, SC, WA, OH). It is important to note that Texas is not on this list.
The Texas legislature is not scheduled to meet again until 2013. Next year would be earliest that any changes to password protection laws would change.
Here are the two proposed federal laws:
- The social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA), introduced in the House of Representatives, would prohibit employers, schools and universities from requiring such information or to deny employment or penalize candidates, employees or students for refusing to give up information.
- The Password Protection Act of 2012, introduced in the Senate on May 9, 2012, which would prohibit employers from forcing prospective or current employees to provide access to their own private, personal data systems as a condition of employment, but retain employers’ rights to govern access t0o social networking sites within office hours and set policies for employer-operated computer systems and accounts.
It should be noted that Facebook has actually taken a stance on the issue. In a blog post by Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan she wrote requests for access to employees’ Facebook profiles or private information “undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and user’s friends,” and may expose the employer to liability.
Egan went on to say that Facebook plans to “take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policy makers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action.” At this time it is unclear what Facebook may have in mind. It will be important to see what developments happen in the next few months.
Source: The Advocate – State Bar Litigation Section Report (Fall 2012)