Maryland first to ban employers asking for your Facebook password

Maryland first to ban employers asking for your Facebook password

Summary: Maryland will soon become the first state to ban the practice of employers asking current employees as well as job applicants for access to their social media accounts, such as on Facebook.

SHARE:
9

Update - Maryland bans employers asking for your Facebook password

Maryland is the first state to fight back against employers demanding access to Facebook accounts. 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.

SB 433 passed unanimously in the state Senate and HB 964 passed by a wide margin in Congress. Now all that is left is for Governor Martin O'Malley to sign the bill, which will make Maryland the first state in the nation to set such a restriction into law.

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."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which helped Collins fight back, is also content. The ACLU is one of the few organizations fighting employers who demand Facebook passwords.

"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 will be the first state to pass such a law, similar measures are pending in many other states, including California, Illinois, and Michigan. Furthermore, lawmakers in the House and Senate are also working on legislation that would ban the practice nationally.

Update - Maryland bans employers asking for your Facebook password

See also:

Topic: Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

9 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • GOOOO Maryland!!!

    ... i'm sorry and i know ... it just never sounds the same when the cheerleading girls aren't calling it.

    Seriously though, it's not everyday you get to commend a bunch of politicians .. but in the case of the Maryland State Senate, it's certainly well deserved. Well done guys!
    thx-1138_
  • Good job.

    Good job Maryland. It's incredible that it's not completely illegal everywhere but this is a positive start at least.
    Naryan
  • Why the password

    Why would they require the password? What's their take on that. They need it because? what?
    Ashtonian
  • Went farther than I expected.

    I was incensed that any employer would demand a worker's password, not so much for privacy reasons, but because anyone who obtained the login credentials could ruin the employee simply by pretending to be him on Facebook or whichever social site or email service they chose.
    Nobody questions whether something Emil Protalinski (for instance) typed on Facebook was really typed by him, or by some malicious pretender with his login creds.
    What surprised me was that Maryland protected usernames also. It seems reasonable for an employer to check whether they're being bad-mouthed by their own employees. If Emil (for instance) is telling all his friends that ZDNet has gone all to heck ever since CBS bought it, and that nothing on CBS or ZDNet is worth anyone's time and disk space, it seems that CBS would have a right to know about it.
    The article seems to say that this law protects Emil, regardless of what he says to whom about his employer, unless the employer can get a court to order access.
    That's farther than I would have gone.
    Dear CBS: I was just using Emil as a hypothetical example. Don't make an example of him, please.
    kidtree
    • Don't completely agree with you...

      "It seems reasonable for an employer to check whether they're being bad-mouthed by their own employees. If Emil (for instance) is telling all his friends that ZDNet has gone all to heck ever since CBS bought it, and that nothing on CBS or ZDNet is worth anyone's time and disk space, it seems that CBS would have a right to know about it."

      What about Emil's first amendment rights - you know - freedom of speech? What gives his company the right to invade his privacy for any reason? Once you start, where do you draw the line?
      smtp4me
    • They really don't need that info

      "It seems reasonable for an employer to check whether they're being bad-mouthed by their own employees."

      Does it?

      Is it really the case that a company should be actively looking for people to punish?

      No, I say that's probably the wrong way to go. It reeks of "the beatings will continue until morale improves."

      Somebody with issues doesn't need to be punished, they just need a place to vent. And if you're a smart business, if it becomes a big deal you will promise to resolve the issue, not promise to fire the employee.

      Be open and honest with both the public and your employees. Don't turn this into spy vs spy stuff, which will only really get your business into more trouble.

      This is a business you're running, not your own personal intelligence agency. Respect the boundaries of your employees, and don't treat them like the enemy.
      CobraA1
  • Unbelievable...

    It is unbelievable that an employer demanded an employee's Facebook password in the first place! I believe in a very clear line between work life and private life - some things are none of your employer's business. Just because they pay you a salary does not mean that they own you! If it had been me, I would have told that company or manager to go F themselves, and my next step would have been to contact the local media - newspapers and television stations and had them waiting on the company's front door step the next morning - wanting to ask questions. The threat of bad press alone would probably have forced them to back off.
    smtp4me
  • What firm?

    "Maryland is the first state to fight back against employers demanding access to Facebook accounts." Of course, we don't find out until much later in the article that Maryland was itself the employer that did this.
    Robert Hahn
  • It seems pretty simple to me...

    "I don't use Facebook."
    Beat a Dead Horse