Legislation Would Make it Illegal for Employers to Ask for Passwords

Social network privacy bill has been reintroduced.

Feb. 6, 2013 — -- Don't worry, members of Congress haven't forgotten about protecting your social media privacy. The Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA), introduced last April, is being reintroduced by Representatives Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Jan Schakowsky (D-I.L.) and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.).

The legislation is meant to stop a trend that has gained steam over the last year — employers and schools asking for Facebook and social media passwords of applicants, employees and students. States such as Maryland and California have passed statewide bills making the practice illegal, but this would be the first national legislation on the matter.

"A bill to prohibit employers and certain other entities from requiring or requesting that employees and certain other individuals provide a user name, password, or other means for accessing a personal account on any social networking website," the SNOPA text states. SNOPA was originally introduced in May 2012; it had to be reintroduced since it died when Congress adjourned at the end of 2012.

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"It is erroneous to just say that if you don't want your information accessed that you shouldn't put it online," Engel said in a statement. "That ignores the basic fact of how widespread these websites and forums have become. We cannot go backward to a time before the internet existed – we can only go forward."

Bradley Shear, an attorney in Maryland who was also involved in Maryland's recent legislation, helped Engel draft the bill. Shear notes that the legislation will protect individuals, but also businesses and educational institutions.

"It protects the personal privacy of students, student applicants, job applicants and employees," Shear told ABC News in a phone interview. "It also provides a legal liability shield for employers, businesses and schools. This is a comprehensive and positive piece of legislation."