Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Passage of “Facebook” bill is a victory for civil liberties

We've all read about people seeking jobs and getting asked for their Facebook login information, or even told to log into their accounts right there so the interviewer can "shoulder surf".

Can employers do this as a condition for employment?

We've also heard about employers requiring their existing employees to disclose this information.

Are these requirements legal?

There's nothing in current law that prohibits employers from doing any of this. But that'll change as soon as Gov. Inslee signs Senate Bill 5211, which passed the House today on a unanimous vote.

A striking amendment -- introduced by Rep. Chris Reykdal and strongly supported by everyone on both sides of the aisle, the business community and the ACLU -- provides a clear solution to the problem of employers who demand that job applicants or current employees do one or all of these things:

  • provide the passwords to their private social media accounts such as Facebook
  • log into their accounts in the presence of the employer
  • add an individual affiliated with the employer to their "friends" lists associated with social media sites
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The legislation explicitly bars:
  •  employers from requesting or requiring disclosure of an employee or applicant's personal social networking login or password under any circumstance
  • coercive "friending" and forced logins in the employer's presence
  • employers from retaliation against employees for refusing to comply with their requests

The bill does allow investigations by employers in regards to leaks of proprietary information or to comply with law, but even then, the employer cannot request or require the personal login information or engage in coercive friending or forced logins.

If the employer is carrying out an investigation, he may request the leaked content, but there is no requirement that the employee turn it over.

In fact, this bill does not give the employer more power to force disclosure of that information than exists under current law.

With the passage of this bill, Washington joins 8 other states that have enacted some form of legislation addressing the issue.

Read this story in Spanish.