SNOPA legislation would bar employers from social network passwords

SNOPA legislation would bar employers from social network passwords

Summary: The proposed Social Networking Online Protection Act is designed to shield the social networking passwords of job applicants and students.


New York congressman Eliot Engel Friday introduced SNOPA, legislation to protect users of social networking from having to grant employers or schools access to their personal sites.

The Social Networking Online Protection Act would restrict current or potential employers "from requiring a username, password or other access to online content."

The legislation would prevent employers from seeking access to social networking sites "to discipline, discriminate or deny employment to individuals, nor punish them for refusing to volunteer the information."

SNOPA would extend to colleges, universities and K-12 schools.

Engel's legislation has yet to be assigned to a committee, according to his press secretary Joe O'Brien.

"Social media sites have become a widespread communications tool - both personally and professionally - all across the world.  However, a person's so-called ‘digital footprint' is largely unprotected," Rep. Engel (D-N.Y) said in a statement.  "Passwords are the gateway to many avenues containing personal and sensitive content - including email accounts, bank accounts and other information," said Engel.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) is co-sponsoring SNOPA with Engel.

Over the past months, there have been numerous incidents of employers and school officials demanding Facebook credentials either as part of a job interview or as part of disciplining a student.

A wave a debate has swept through social sites and news outlets across the Internet. In late March, Republicans in the House blocked a measure seeking to allow the Federal Communications Commission to prevent employers from forcing workers to reveal Facebook passwords.

Earlier this month, Maryland became the first state to enact legislation preventing employers from demanding applicants hand over social networking log-in credentials. At least seven others states are considering similar legislation and the American Civil Liberties Union is monitoring the situation.

The legislation could not only protect the privacy of citizens, but it has been suggested that companies would also benefit.

One company department head blogged that knowing personal details about an applicant could possibly lead to discrimination charges if the applicant believed they were not hired based on information gleaned from their social site such as sexual orientation.

Engel,  a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said "we need a federal statute to protect all Americans across the country. This is a matter of personal privacy and makes sense in our digital world."

Engel posted the announcement on the legislation on his Facebook page. As of Friday afternoon, he had two "Likes."

Engel has spent much of his time in Congress championing energy issues, affordable housing, healthcare reform and education. Engel recently introduced The Cell Phone Theft Protection Act, which would create a centralized list of stolen wireless phones and force providers to turn off service to those devices.

See also:

Topics: Networking, Collaboration, Social Enterprise


John Fontana is a journalist focusing on authentication, identity, privacy and security issues. Currently, he is the Identity Evangelist for strong authentication vendor Yubico, where he also blogs about industry issues and standards work, including the FIDO Alliance.

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  • About time

    It's about time that they did this, but they should also drop CISPA which is a non-needed law that is only there for abuse by various organizations.
    • Full body cavity search

      But you don't get that choice. Once you sign up to have the government protect you from every little thing, you've also signed up to have the government in your shorts. The idea that you can have the benevolence without them grabbing your junk is a sham.
      Robert Hahn
      • Open wide and say AAAAAHHH

        So private industry is exploiting the lack of legislation protecting our privacy and you are against the government doing something about that? I know there's some psychological condition where the abused protects the abuser...I think you might have it!
  • Must See!!!!!!!!!!!!!@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

    what Jason answered I'm stunned that a single mom can profit $4394 in one month on the internet. did you see this website <b><b>
  • The correct answer to an employer snooping... workplace violence. Worked at the Post Office, and they didn't need any laws!
    Tony Burzio
  • First rule of on-line security is....

    Never give out your username and password.

    Imagine you go for an interview, provide the username and password to your social networking accounts. Once it's over but before you're out the front doors - because the guy's a jerk - he changes your credentials then post things in your name.

    Now when you go to the next interview, they see the stuff the previous company posted. Except the new company doesn't know you didn't write those things! And because the credentials are changed, there's nothing you can do to protect your reputation.

    Any potential employer asking for my social media credentials doesn't have to worry about me working for them. Any company I work for who decides that having my credentials is necessary will need to hire my replacement. However, I've got no problem with them "looking" at what's publicly visible (then again, so could my neighbors).

    To show I've got an open mind, I can see accepting a friend request from the company so they can see what's on there (this is all in the interest of having an "open mind". In the real world, I wouldn't accept a friend request either because it reveals their disposition). But I like what the one dept head said: if I don't get the job, I'll sue. If enough people did that (doesn't have to be everybody), they'd think twice about demanding credentials.
    • Duh!

      I think most people know not to give out credentials. But you do have some employers who will say: hand them over or no job.
      Or you may already have a job and they decide that everyone must give up their credentials.
      • You're An Optimist!!

        A better technique might be to turn the question back: "I agreed when I joined <service of your choice> that I would not divulge my password. If I have no problem breaking that agreement, why would you think I would not also give some else my credentials here?"
  • Just...

    Just say "No". No, as in I don't have a Facebook page (or any other social network).
  • Not strong enough

    The quote here is "from requiring a username, password or other access to online content.???

    They shouldn't even be allowed to ask.
  • Deactivate

    Before you go to an interview just deactivate your account. We can go a few days without a twitter or FB. Then say you don't use social networks which is true at the time. Simple enough.
    Anti Fanboy
    • Huh?

      So every time you go to an interview, you will deactivate your Twitter or FB account. After the interview you will then create a new one only to deactivate it gain before the next interview?
  • I gotta agree with Lazurus . . .

    . . . if they ask me to break one agreement in order to work for them, what will they ask me to do while I work for them? Can they trust me not to break agreements I make with them?