Written by Richard Greenberg
UPDATE – Newly enacted Maryland law prohibits employers from demanding access to Facebook or other on line accounts of employees and applicants.
In this space we have frequently discussed social media issues ranging from legal considerations in policy development, to employers’ legal and practical risks attendant to reviewing job applicants’ social media presence, to legislative reactions to employers’ requiring disclosure of passwords as part of their background check process. Two further reactions to the password disclosure issue are worthy of note.
First, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal has stated he will introduce federal legislation similar to that currently under consideration in the Illinois and Maryland legislatures. Arguing that employers’ mandating disclosure of user names and passwords "is a huge invasion of privacy," State Assemblyman John Burzichelli has indicated that he will introduce similar legislation prohibiting the practice in the New Jersey legislature.
Second, in a statement issued this past Friday by Erin Egan, Chief Privacy Officer, Policy, Facebook responded to "a distressing increase in reports of employers or others seeking to gain inappropriate access to people’s Facebook profiles or private information [which] …undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends [and]…also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability." Facebook advised that it is now a violation of its Statement of Rights of Responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password since users "shouldn’t be forced to share [their] private information and communications just to get a job" and friends of users shouldn’t have to worry that [their] private information or communications will be revealed to someone [they] don’t know and didn’t intend to share with just because [their friend] is looking for a job."
Employers must stay abreast of these developments as they continue to refine all policies and procedures pertaining to employee social media usage.