The debate over whether your employer should be able to ask for your Facebook password has once again made its way to Capitol Hill.
Two Democrats on Friday introduced a bill that would ban employers from asking for a worker’s social networking username or password.
The Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA), introduced by Reps. Eliot Engel and Jan Schakowsky, bans employers from demanding that current or prospective employees turn over information about their Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or other online profile. They are also prohibited from punishing workers for not producing such material.
The bill applies to those in corporate environments, as well as those working in colleges, universities, and K-12 schools.
“Social media sites have become a widespread communications tool both personally and professionally all across the world. However, a person’s so-called ‘digital footprint’ is largely unprotected,” Rep. Engel said in a statement. “Part of the attraction to social networking is that you can feel free to interact with those you wish to, and post content as if it were part of a group dynamic. Passwords are the gateway to many avenues containing personal and sensitive content including email accounts, bank accounts and other information.”
The issue cropped up last month after reports emerged of employers asking current and prospective employees to hand over passwords or access to services like Facebook.
The controversy prompted Facebook to weigh in and condemn the practice. In a recent interview with PCMag, Fred Wolens, Facebook’s public policy manager, said the company opted to make a public statement because “there were a lot of questions and implications that I’m not sure employers were considering when engaging in these practices.”
Maryland tackled the issue with legislation that was signed into law recently, but Congress has not been as successful. House Republicans last month defeated an amendment that would have banned current or prospective employers from requiring workers to hand over personal passwords as a condition of keeping or getting a new job.
Sens. Chuck Schumer and Richard Blumenthal have also asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether asking for passwords during a job interview violates federal law, according to the AP.
“The American people deserve the right to keep their personal accounts private,” Schakowsky said. “No one should have to worry that their personal account information, including passwords, can be required by an employer or educational institution, and if this legislation is signed into law, no one will face that possibility.”
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