SNOPA: Bill to Ban Schools and Employers From Asking for Passwords

May 1, 2012 3:21pm
gty facebook website thg 111207 wblog SNOPA: Bill to Ban Schools and Employers From Asking for Passwords

Facebook home page. Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

There may have been lots of backlash against SOPA (the Stop Online Privacy Act) a few months ago, but something tells us SNOPA, the Social Networking Online Protection Act, won’t provoke the same protest.

Introduced by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) late last week, the legislation is meant to stop a trend that has gained steam in the last few months — employers and schools asking for Facebook and social media passwords of applicants, employees, and students. Maryland passed a similar bill last month making the practice illegal; Engel is introducing national legislation.

“There have been a number of reports about employers requiring new applicants to give their username and password as part of the hiring process. The same has occurred at some schools and universities,” Engel said in a statement. “Passwords are the gateway to many avenues containing personal and sensitive content — including email accounts, bank accounts and other information,” he added.

The national legislation would prohibit employers from asking for usernames or passwords to access online content. It would also apply to colleges and schools.

Bradley Shear, an attorney in Maryland who was also involved in Maryland’s recent legislation, helped Engel draft the bill.

“SNOPA would create national legislation to protect legal liability and provide a shield for employers and schools,” Shear told ABC News. “I believe it is a very well thought-out and crafted solution. It helps protect all parties, not just one.”

Shear said SNOPA would also protect businesses and protect them from breaking other laws that could be a byproduct of checking one’s personal social media account.

Co-sponsored by Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), the act has a long way to go, but with support of similar legislation at the state level, including New York Senator Charles Schumer and Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, the light is certainly being shined on the social media privacy issue.

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