Maryland has become the first state to fight back against employers demanding access to Facebook accounts. Last month, SB 433 passed unanimously in the state Senate and HB 964 passed by a wide margin in Congress. Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley this week signed the bill, making Maryland the first state in the nation to set such a restriction into law. It takes effect on October 1, 2012.
The bill (SB 433 and HB 964) encompasses more than just Facebook: it targets employers from requesting access to all social media accounts of current employees as well as job applicants. Here's the synopsis:
Prohibiting an employer from requesting or requiring that an employee or applicant disclose any user name, password, or other means for accessing a personal account or service through specified electronic communications devices; prohibiting an employer from taking, or threatening to take, specified disciplinary actions for an employee's refusal to disclose specified password and related information; prohibiting an employee from downloading specified information or data; etc.
I know what you're thinking. Why Maryland? Well, that's where this whole fiasco first started. In February 2011, Officer Robert Collins told the story of how the Maryland Division of Corrections demanded his Facebook login credentials during a recertification interview. Collins is quite pleased with his state.
"I am excited to know that our esteemed policymakers in Maryland found it important to protect the privacy of Maryland's citizens," Collins said in a statement. "I believe privacy should not be an alternative in lieu of securing employment, but a fundamental right. Moving forward, our children will have one less hurdle to overcome in their quest to secure gainful employment and become contributing members to our great society. In that spirit, I hope that other state legislatures, and more importantly the federal government, follow Maryland's lead and ensure these essential protections for all Americans nationwide."
"We are proud of Maryland for standing up for the online privacy of employees and the friends and family members they stay in touch with online," Melissa Goemann, Legislative Director of ACLU of Maryland, said in a statement. "Our state has trail-blazed a new frontier in protecting freedom of expression in the digital age, and has created a model for other states to follow."
While Maryland is the first state to pass such a law, similar measures are pending in many other states, including California, Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota. Furthermore, lawmakers in the House and Senate are also working on legislation that would ban the practice nationally.
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