Congress Seeks to Ban Practice of Employers Asking For Social Network Passwords

By: Richard Sheinis

The controversial issue of employers demanding that job applicants provide their login and password for their social networking account such as Facebook, has made its way to the U.S. Congress.  The Social Networking Online Protection Act (“SNOPA”) was introduced in the House of Representatives on April 27.  The Act proposes a $10,000 civil penalty for any current or prospective employer that asks an employee or job applicant for access to their social networking accounts.  Schools and universities would also be banned from demanding passwords as part of disciplinary or enrollment processes.

Representative Eliot L. Engel, a democrat from New York, introduced the legislation.  Engel stated, “We have to draw a line between what is publically available information, and what is personal, private content.  I think we would all object to having to turn over user names and passwords for e-mail accounts, or even worse to bank accounts.  User-generated social media content should be no different”.

Maryland has already passed legislation forbidding this practice.  Illinois, Michigan, and California are said to have similar Bills in the works.

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