Is It Illegal for Employers to Demand Your Facebook Password?

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An amendment that would have banned the practice failed in the U.S. House, but 6 states have laws to prevent it from happening.

One of several amendments to CISPA, a cybersecurity bill many people protested this week, would have made it illegal for employers to ask for access to employees’ and applicants’ Facebook profiles.

While that bill passed the House, the password amendment failed, U.S. News & World Report says.

The amendment was introduced by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo. It was voted down 224-188, with Republicans opposing it.

Bill sponsor Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ohio, claimed it was an attempt to kill the bill and irrelevant to cybersecurity, and should be addressed separately. Past legislation in Congress trying to do so has failed.

Facebook itself has warned employers that asking for access to employees’ Facebook accounts
is a bad idea, regardless of legality. It could open up employers to discrimination lawsuits by giving them access to private information they’re not allowed to ask about in interviews.

Some states have or may soon have protection anyway. Oregon is considering legislation that would protect college students (but not employees) from Facebook prying by administrators, The Associated Press says. It passed the state Senate this week and has gone on to the House.

Six states have already blocked employers from demanding Facebook passwords, Wired says. California and Illinois implemented laws at the start of the year, while Michigan and New Jersey did so in December. The others are Maryland and Delaware.

Those laws apply to social media accounts broadly, not just Facebook. But they don’t prevent employers from looking at what is publicly posted, so watch yourself.

Stacy Johnson

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