Maryland May Ban Employers from Demanding Facebook Passwords

Robert Collins was asked for his Facebook password on a interview. APBy SARAH BREITENBACH, Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- Maryland is poised to become the first state to ban employers from demanding applicants or workers hand over their log-in information for social media sites like Facebook.

The measure, which handily passed the legislature earlier this month, keeps managers from snooping on password-protected content, a practice advocates of the bill say violates privacy and intimidates job seekers and employees.

Robert Collins, a former corrections officer in Maryland, said he was asked for his Facebook account information while being recertified for his job following a leave of absence.

Collins, who lives in Baltimore, complied with the request, but said he felt embarrassed and violated as an interviewer roamed his private messages, pictures and posts.

Robert Collins"It almost seemed that my compliance was compulsory," Collins said.

The voluntary social media screening for correctional officers, not all employees, is a natural extension of an already "inherently intrusive" background check for people working in law enforcement, said Rick Binetti, executive director of communications for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

The practice was used to screen people who would be working in jails for possible illegal activity and gang affiliations.

"I'm sure if you asked a correctional officer if they were working alongside someone who was known to show gang signs on their social media, that would create an uncomfortable working situation for them," Binetti said.

A review by the corrections department last year assessed 2,689 applications, showing that seven candidates were rejected in part because of information found on their social media profiles.

Another candidate was rejected for the job solely because of content on a social media profile.

That candidate, along with others, used social media profiles that contained images of them showing known gang signs, according to the review.

In April 2011, a few months after the American Civil Liberties Union complained on behalf of Collins, the department issued a revised policy that asked job candidates to voluntarily participate in the review of social media use during their interview. The new policy stops short of asking for log-in or password information.

It is impossible to know exactly how often employers ask to tap into prospective workers' accounts, but Bradley Shear, a Bethesda, Md.-based social media attorney, said he believes it is happening more and more frequently.

Only a handful of clients have contacted him because an employer asked to test drive their accounts, but Shear said many more cases of social media snooping exist. Those asked to turn over their information are just afraid to come forward.

"If you're not willing to go public, the problem persists," he said. "If you're not willing to be a whistleblower, if you're not going to come forward, it's not going to stop."

Collins, who no longer works for the Department of Corrections and is pursuing a degree in nursing, said he has talked to other people who have also been required to hand over their account information, but "they didn't think anything of it."

While the Maryland legislation is the first of its kind, lawmakers in at least seven other states have introduced legislation to limit employer access to social media user names and passwords, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

It is unclear if the measure will become law because Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley is still reviewing which legislation he will sign, a spokeswoman for the governor's office said.

A companion bill that would have kept colleges and universities from requiring that students disclose account information passed the Maryland Senate, but saw no movement in the House of Delegates.

Democratic U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut have also asked Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether asking for log-in information during job interviews violates federal law.

Allie Bohm, an advocacy and policy strategist for the ACLU, says the practice of asking to surf someone's social media profile is akin to asking for the key to their house and going through their mail.

"We don't want to create a situation where employers think it's appropriate just because it's online," Bohm said.

Shear, who pushed for the Maryland legislation, said giving employers access to password-protected information not only violates people's privacy, but hampers technology development, which relies on users to trust the security of the websites.

"There's a whole generation of future leaders where they're going to be our elected leaders, our judges, our lawyers, our business people," Shear said. "Do we really want all those people to think it's OK for the government to see our private content without any warrant or subpoena or anything like that?"

Facebook director for state public policy Will Castleberry applauded the bill.

"Asking employees or job applicants for their passwords is wrong," he said in a statement.

Business representatives, including the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, argue that the bill is bad for business and that requests for log information are very rare.

While media have reported a few handful of instances around the country of employers asking for passwords, using third-party software to spy on profiles and requesting that applicants "friend" managers in order to vet their accounts, the practice is not widespread, said Elizabeth Torphy-Donzella, a labor and employment attorney with Baltimore-based Shawe Rosenthal LLP.

"I do not have one client that to my knowledge asked someone for their Facebook page and most of my clients would not even think of that," she said.

Torphy-Donzella, who worked with the Maryland Chamber of Commerce to oppose the bill, said it takes away important access for employers who need to investigate harassment claims and other misconduct.

"It was drafted in a manner that didn't take account of legitimate employer needs to request access to employee Facebook pages," she said.

But Shear argues that the legislation is good for businesses because it prevents them from being liable for information, such as criminal or harassing behavior, that they could discover when reviewing employee profiles.

"There's no good reason to do this," Shear said. "If you're in HR and you're doing it, you're creating tremendous legal liability for your company."

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ewrug

I live in Md, if The state legislature actually passes this bill, it would be one of the few laws they passed that make sense. This state is so far into tax the living crap out if everything and still have deficit. Hopefully we can see some results to our tax burdens. Displeasure with Martin Omalley s administration aside no company should have this right to snoop into your personal info.Mnay people share thoughts/messages with other family and friends, this should not be publicy scrutinized for a paycheck.

April 22 2012 at 8:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
goldngyrl1

This is B/S, your facebook password or the such has nothing to do with your business sense or accountability. This is just being nosey and controlling period

April 22 2012 at 8:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
anyteampa

Nice to see that AOL may let me post on this story, maybe. "Torphy-Donzella, who worked with the Maryland Chamber of Commerce to oppose the bill, said it takes away important access for employers who need to investigate harassment claims and other misconduct.

"It was drafted in a manner that didn't take account of legitimate employer needs to request access to employee Facebook pages," she said."

Well, Torphy-Donzella, an employer has NO business accessing anybody's private accounts, no matter what your idiotic idea of that "NEED" would be.

April 21 2012 at 6:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
anyteampa

Testing

April 21 2012 at 6:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Stephanie

Business representatives, including the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, argue that the bill is bad for business and that requests for log information are very rare.
*****************************************************************************************************************
Torphy-Donzella, who worked with the Maryland Chamber of Commerce to oppose the bill, said it takes away important access for employers who need to investigate harassment claims and other misconduct.
******************************************************************************************************************
So, what did they do about prospective employees BEFORE Facebook- which has been around for HOW long?!

That's why I'm not on, nor will ever be on social media; but I do tell my kids that if they don't want me (or a boss) to see it, then it shhouldn't be on there.

April 21 2012 at 11:52 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
neecywoman

In an interview the employer is not allowed by law to ask your age, sexual orientation, marital status. Why the hell would they be allowed to access ALL of that information when you hand them open access to a social media account?!? But can look up your credit score? WTF

April 21 2012 at 10:01 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to neecywoman's comment
anyteampa

That's what we get when we let the progressives run the country for a century or so. : (

Check out TSA VIPR and other illegal things being done.

April 21 2012 at 6:58 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
LONNIE

I usually don't say this but if some knucklehead asked me for my Private Info I would be his boss real soon. I don't understand why this is an issue and has to be debated by anyone. This "INVASION" is covered by the 1st amendment with no questions asked. There should not be a new law made just for this, just enforce the ones on the books now. If someone is in a gang or bad for the company it is up to the company to find out, but giving up your Real actual Private information is wrong. GET IT DONE and tell anyone who tries to force someone to give the info you are out of here. I truly am amazed that this is even happeneing or a discussion. Legislators get off your ass and speak out against this NOW!!!

April 21 2012 at 10:01 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
susan

If you want a job that puts you intouch with criminals behavior, your actions tell a lot about you. Some jobs just demand top security type people...If you don't like it don't work there..The ACLU needs to stand down. Make it a law that everyone from the President to the Elected ones on down mush relinquish their account names and passwords also.

April 21 2012 at 9:09 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to susan's comment
LONNIE

NO WAY! This is a sick request. That is like asking for you phone password, HP password, AOL password. Do you honestly think this is a good idea. There are people out there that would deny you a job because of your political preference alone. I know because I was turned down for a job becasue a lady read my post on blogs and didn't like my opinions-yes opinions. It would be my word against hers in court. I tried to get her to write or say something in front of someone else but she was slick and knew she was wrong and wouldn't.

April 21 2012 at 10:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
anyteampa

susan, to progressives, such as yourself, there is NOTHING that should NOT be relinquished to the "state" well thank God your guy's in DC making sure that none of us has any civil liberties left.

April 21 2012 at 7:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim

How about employers asking what your credit status is ? If you don't hire me I can't pay my bills.I told one company I thought I was applying for employment not a credit card. I'm sure the Federal Government will do nothing to stop this. I'm surprised our elected officials haven't already passed a law making it legal to require your log in and password. In case you haven't figured it out those people in Washington that keep passing laws in favor of the banks and major businesses are the people who own them.

April 21 2012 at 8:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jim's comment
LONNIE

A credit score could mean a person might have a proclivity to steal from them to pay their bills. I can understand that point. As far as the P/W, that is just wrong. It is none of anyones business what my P/W is. If they want to check up pn me, go ask questions like they did in the old days. It is not just banks and major businesses that ask for P/W's. So that blows your theory out of th water.

April 21 2012 at 10:09 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Kendall

If a person is a gang member it won't take long to find out. As a former corrections officer, I have seen this and until there is a problem no one knows who the person is going to help (the officer or inmate). Not a good work place. As an empolyer now, I don't need or want any of employee's passwords that is used for my company. I wouldn't work for someone that wanted mine.

April 21 2012 at 8:18 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply