Social Media Privacy Bill Passes Both Houses
April 9, 2012
CONTACT: Meredith Curtis, ACLU of Maryland, 410-889-8555; firstname.lastname@example.org
ANNAPOLIS - Hailing passage of the nation's first bill banning employers from asking for the social media passwords of job applicants and employees, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland (ACLU) celebrated legislation that will be the standard-bearer for reform protecting both the privacy of workers and of their friends and family online. Over the weekend, both Houses of the Maryland General Assembly approved identical versions of a social media privacy protection bill, SB 433/HB 964, which will prohibit employers from requiring or requesting employees or applicants to disclose their user names or passwords or any other means of accessing personal Internet sites and Web-based accounts as a condition of employment. The ACLU applauds this bipartisan effort and particularly the leadership of Senator Ron Young (D-Frederick, Washington) and Delegates Mary Washington and Shawn Tarrant (both D-Baltimore City).
"We are proud of Maryland for standing up for the online privacy of employees and the friends and family members they stay in touch with online," said Melissa Goemann, Legislative Director of ACLU of Maryland. "Our state has trail-blazed a new frontier in protecting freedom of expression in the digital age, and has created a model for other states to follow."
The ACLU believes that job applicants and employees should not have to give up their First Amendment rights as well as risk the security of their private information by being forced to divulge their passwords to accounts in order to gain or maintain employment. In 2011, the ACLU took action after then-Division of Corrections (DOC) Officer Robert Collins requested assistance after being required to provide his personal Facebook password during a DOC re-certification interview.
Collins was an employee with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services when he took a voluntary leave of absence following the death of his mother. Because his job had been filled in his absence, Collins applied for a comparable position within the corrections system and underwent a recertification. There were no flags during this process, yet an interviewer asked whether he had social media accounts and to provide his passwords. Collins felt he had no choice but to provide his password, even though he knew it was not right, because he needed the job to support his family. Collins had to sit there while the interview logged on to his Facebook account and reviewed his messages, wall posts and photos.
"I am excited to know that our esteemed policymakers in Maryland found it important to protect the privacy of Maryland's citizens," said ACLU client Robert Collins. "I believe privacy should not be an alternative in lieu of securing employment, but a fundamental right. Moving forward, our children will have one less hurdle to overcome in their quest to secure gainful employment and become contributing members to our great society. In that spirit, I hope that other state legislatures, and more importantly the federal government, follow Maryland's lead and ensure these essential protections for all Americans nationwide."