Maryland could become the first state in the U.S. to prohibit employers from requesting current and prospective employees’ Facebook passwords.
Both houses of the state legislature passed a bill to this effect and sent it on to Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, according to The Baltimore Sun.
His office staff told the newspaper that he has “hundreds” of bills to go through in addition to the one concerning Facebook passwords. We can only assume that means he might not sign this particular piece of legislation into law right away, unless the media spotlight turns the issue into a priority.
Lawmakers in Illinois and California are debating similar legislation, while a federal amendment to the U.S. constitution was shot down in the House of Representatives. It’s possible that the Senate could introduce its own proposal on the matter, either as a bill or another amendment — or even the House might reintroduce the issue in the form of a bill.
The issue of employers requesting Facebook passwords has only been gaining visibility since the American Civil Liberties Union wrote a letter condemning a Maryland employer that demanded an employee’s Facebook password in February of 2011.
Then a case this year revived the issue when a school demanded that a 12-year-old student surrender a Facebook password and the parents sued.
Still more recently, Facebook’s own Privacy Chief Erin Egan posted a note on the site telling users not to surrender their passwords to employers, adding that the social network might take legal action against this practice. Petitions supporting her stance have circulated on the site, amassing significant support.
Most likely the password privacy issue will continue to make headlines until a federal law is passed or a U.S. Supreme Court case decides the matter one way or another.
So we’re curious to know what you think: Readers, what’s your stance on this particular issue — should there be laws specifically preventing employers from requesting job applicants’ and employees’ Facebook passwords?
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