Maryland Bill Bans Employers From Facebook Passwords

Apr 11, 2012 10:36am

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If you’re worried about an employer or potential employer asking for your Facebook or Twitter password, you might just want to move to Maryland. The state’s General Assembly has become the first to pass a bill to keep social media passwords safe from employers.

Just a few weeks ago national attention was put on the issue of job applicants and employees being asked for their Facebook passwords so that companies could ensure the individuals had appropriate social media identities.

In response, New York Sen. Charles Schumer and Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate if the practice violates federal laws. But Maryland already had legislation in the works. And yesterday it passed the House as Bill 433. The full text of the bill can be found here.

“In a nutshell, it protects employees and employers. It prohibits employees from having to provide access to their password-protected digital content or social media account information,” Bradley Shear, a Maryland social media lawyer who worked to get the bill passed, said.

The bill also protects employers. “It’s a pro-business bill; it provides employers with a shield against lawsuits,” Shear added.

Maryland State Sen. Ronald Young was instrumental in pushing the legislation. Young couldn’t be reached for comment, but he told ABC News earlier this monththat he felt that such social media password practices were an “infringement on constitutional rights.” Facebook’s privacy officer Erin Egan has called such password requests wrong.

Wrong and illegal is exactly what it will be in Maryland as soon as the bill is signed by Gov. Martin O’Mailey.

And other states might not be far behind: Minnesota and Illinois have also drafted legislation based on Maryland’s bills and Washington State, Massachusetts, and New Jersey lawmakers have announced their intentions to introduce similar legislation.

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