Senate Passes Bill Protecting Student Social Media Privacy

March 21, 2013

March 21, 2013

CONTACT: Meredith Curtis, Communications Director, 410-889-8555;
media@aclu-md.org
Sara Love, Public Policy Director, 703-963-2710; love@aclu-md.org

Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland lauded the Maryland Senate for voting 47-0 in favor of Senate Bill 838, which would prohibit academic institutions from requiring a student or applicant for admission to provide the institution with access to the student or applicant's personal internet or electronic accounts. The measure will now be considered by the House, which has not yet voted on cross-filed legislation.

On March 5 and 6, the ACLU testified in support of both the House and Senate bill.

"With this overwhelmingly positive Senate vote, Maryland is poised to be on the cutting edge of online privacy protection," said Sara Love, Public Policy Director for the ACLU of Maryland. "Last year, the General Assembly was the first in the country to pass legislation prohibiting employers from requesting access to employees' social media accounts. Any communications on social media that a student takes care to make private should be kept private."

Many schools across the country have started requiring student athletes to provide them with access to the private content on their social media accounts. Sometimes schools will require a student to "friend" them on Facebook or to allow access to their private Twitter account. For the ACLU of Maryland, these raise legal concerns as potential violations of freedom of speech under the First Amendment and reasonable expectation of privacy under the 4th Amendment.

After last year's passage of legislation prohibiting employers from requesting employees' social media passwords, HB 1332 and SB 838 are the next step in protecting privacy online for students.  To date, four other states have enacted a student social media privacy law, and nine others
have introduced similar bills this year.