Maryland Legislation Tells Employers To Stay Out Of Your Social Networking Business

Maryland lawmakers are moving forward on new legislation aimed at keeping potential or current employers from asking for access to your social networking accounts. Because really, no one wants their boss snooping around in their lists of friends and peeking at their personal information — even Facebook has a problem with that idea.

WJZ News in Baltimore says legislators were moved to action over the social media privacy debate. News that employers had the audacity to ask employees or those they were interviewing for jobs for access to their private accounts started circulating recently, infuriating many.

Lawmakers were among outraged over the idea, leading Maryland to officially pass a law this week banning employers from asking for social media passwords.

Not everyone is happy about the law, however — including the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. They say employers have a legitimate reason for asking for access, saying: “Interest in protecting itself from various legal claims as well as an interest in scrutinizing potential misrepresentations and inappropriate comments/behavior of its agents.”

The governor now has to sign the bill into law. If it becomes official, it’ll serve as an example for other states like California and Illinois, which are looking into similar legislation.

Md. Bill Bans Employers From Asking For Facebook & Twitter Passwords [WJZ Baltimore]


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  1. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    On the one hand, hooray for privacy! Thanks, Maryland!

    On the other hand, I find it offensive that this has even become a fucking issue in the first place!

    • jeadly says:

      Yeah, and what else is going on at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce that I should be worried about?

      • Cor Aquilonis says:

        No kidding. Why is it that every time I hear “Chamber of Commerce” associated with politics, they’re always taking the most d-baggy policy position possible? I don’t think it’s selective exposure.

        • Talmonis says:

          They’re organizations of rich assholes, one and all. They are the enemy of the working class.

    • Jawaka says:

      Yeah but you know that as soon as another employee somewhere flips out and spouts some racist stuff at a customer or throws food at them everyone’s going to slam the employer (again) for not doing a better job of controlling their employees. It seems like employers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

  2. Blueskylaw says:

    “They say employers have a legitimate reason for asking for access, saying: “Interest in protecting itself from various legal claims as well as an interest in scrutinizing potential misrepresentations and inappropriate comments/behavior of its agents.”

    How did employers ever hire people before Facebook? They make it seem like without having access to your Facebook account, they can’t hire the right people and their business will fail as badly as the Mirror Recoating Corporation. Isn’t this what all those interviews are for, to get to know an employee?

    • Captain Spock says:

      What if I say I do not have one , and legitimately do not? Will I be eliminated from contention because I do not have a facebook account and cannot prove a negative?

    • Cat says:
    • Hi_Hello says:

      before facebook, company didn’t need to worry about their employer posting up pictures or make comments that will make the company look bad.

      • Cat says:

        I was building web pages since the 90’s and could have badmouthed anyone I wanted. An employer would have never gotten my server password, either.

        • Hi_Hello says:

          they can fire you if they found out about the context of your page.

          it has happened.

          I wonder if this law prevent employer from asking interview to add them to their friend list.

      • nishioka says:

        Yes, because there were no local talk shows you could call in to, and there were no newspapers, and the internet certainly didn’t exist before 2006, and….

      • quieterhue says:

        It’s not that complicated. My company has a policy that employees can’t list their employer on their social networking sites. That way if they do something embarassing, the company isn’t associated with it. Problem solved.

  3. humphrmi says:

    So the Maryland CoC is wants businesses to have access to employee’s Facebook acounts to protect itself from ” various legal claims “? How about the legal claims that will arise when employers are sued because they ask for protected information that is available in Facebook profiles that they aren’t supposed to ask for in interviews? How about when someone gets fired after six months and claims it’s because they are a Mom / Gay / Methodist?

    Hogwash. Employers don’t need this information, period. Pound sand, CoC.

    • ARP says:

      Well, its actually quite ingenious. You see, you push for laws or friendly judges to allow an arbitration clause in your employment agreement. Right off the bat, you now have a 75% chance of winning those. Now, if you’re talking pre-employment, well that where you push for “tort reform” and get your damages limited to some smaller amount. Finally, you try to get conservative judges elected like Scalia who basically said that Wal-Mart can’t be liable for discrimination because they have a policy against it. You see, it was all those Wal-Mart managers that did the discrimination, not Wal-Mart. So, in this case, it would be those “rogue” HR people that are at fault and clearly not the company. Done and done.

  4. mikedt says:

    To be honest I really can’t understand why companies would want to open themselves to all kinds of legal hassle by admitting that they’re reading your facebook page. It’s one thing to do it on the down low, but a whole different story by being up front and asking for a password. On a FB page, along with valid reservations about seeing a candidate doing blow off a stripper’s belly, you can learn the applicant’s racial, religious and sexual background – all grounds for a good lawsuit if you don’t hire that applicant.

  5. Cat says:

    They say employers have a legitimate reason for asking for access, saying: “Interest in protecting itself from various legal claims as well as an interest in scrutinizing potential misrepresentations and inappropriate comments/behavior of its agents.”

    Bullshit. You don’t need a persons password to see what’s on their facebook page. This law doesn’t seem to stop businesses from requiring employees to “friend” someone to allow access. I have a problem with that practice, too.

    • Hi_Hello says:

      ooops. replied to your other thinggie asking the same thing.

      I wonder if it limit to just facebook and twitter.

  6. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    “They say employers have a legitimate reason for asking for access, saying: “Interest in protecting itself from various legal claims as well as an interest in scrutinizing potential misrepresentations and inappropriate comments/behavior of its agents.””

    Sorry, but you do not have a legitimate reason for insisting on what is essentially a wiretap by another means. Personal privacy is personal privacy. You don’t get to watch out for “inappropriate comments/behavior” of your employees by bugging their phones or putting cameras in their homes, so you don’t get to have access to their private social networking information either.

  7. Captain Spock says:

    If an employer needs my permission to access my facebook page with my password, do they not need the permission of ALL my friends? I believe this is part of the reason it is against Facebook’s TOS

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      Good point. It’s not just an invasion of the privacy of the employee, it’s an invasion of the privacy of all their friends and family too.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      which leads me right back to wondering about those apps that grab data from your facebook friends

  8. DJ Charlie says:

    On the station’s DJ Application we ask for a person’s Facebook NAME, and their Twitter NAME. Not their password, not for friending, etc.

    And it seems to work out pretty well. Why can’t employers do that?

  9. SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

    “Interest in protecting itself from various legal claims as well as an interest in scrutinizing everything an employee does, ever, srsly no jokesies and all comments/behavior of its agents in perpetuity.”

    There Maryland CoC FTFY

    • Talmonis says:

      Seriously, THIS is actual class warfare. They want good little serfs that are afraid to have lives outside of drone work. Drive this filth out, better businessmen and women will replace them, there’s money to be made by NOT being a wannabe overlord.

      • SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

        It’s the circle of life in business: at first the companies held all the power, then came worker reforms, unions etc. Slowly over time businesses, big and small alike, have chipped away at those reforms and the balance of power has shifted back in their favor, not quite what it was back in say the 30’s but it’s headed that direction

  10. damageddude says:

    The real issue is what employers have human resource departments that are so full of fail that they are setting them up for a major lawsuit?

    A prospective employer may not ask about my religion, age, marital status, organizations I belong to and several other protected classes during an interview — it is illegal. By looking at my Facebook page today (which is set to the most private setting Facebook allows) a prospective employer would be able to discover if I am married, of a certain age, whether I have children, some per-existing medical conditions in my family and what my religion is. Therefoer, if I was passed over for the position for someone with equal experience and qualifications, I could potentially turn around and sue them. Pretty stupid thing for these companies to do.

    Professionally, my LinkedIn page is a better barometer of how I will be as an employee. But hey, if being lazy and demanding my Facebook password to know my religion and what political organizations I may belong to are so important, my lawyer (my wife) is standing by. Bring it on.

    • RandomHookup says:

      I guarantee you it’s the management, not HR, that’s doing stupid stuff like this. I was at a recruiting seminar yesterday with this as one of the topics and 100% of the recruiters and HR folks said they don’t do this … but they said their hiring managers might.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      try the most private setting plus a fake name, not entering relationship status, religion, location, etc. it works for me.

  11. Expat says:

    Now, If only Maryland could pass the f*&king budget…..

  12. Alliance to Restore the Republic of the United States of America says:

    Re: MCoC: Wow, industry is really trying hard to reach Industrial Revolution levels of jackassery, aren’t they?

    • Talmonis says:

      Yes. They heard stories from their grandparents about “The good old days” where workers “knew their place” and when they got “uppity”, you would just hire men to beat them into submission. They dream of this and smile.

  13. Conformist138 says:

    See, but the password allows someone to CHANGE the info, too. There is zero excuse for an employer to need to see ‘behind the curtain’ of any employee’s personal accounts, but it’s even worse to consider that a password allows your employer to add and remove photos, change your status, add and remove friends, and like pages on your behalf.

    On what level is that even close to acceptable? And what’s next- requesting personal email passwords? The password to any online dating sites? The password to access my bank accounts? How about the key to my house?

    Besides, the CoC is acting like only employers must screen employees. Ever get hired by a company that seemed fine only to find out it’s a miserable hellhole? But I doubt my employer will give me access to anything beyond the immediate scope of my job. Certainly I’m not getting passwords to jack shit.

  14. RandomHookup says:

    Do what companies have done for thousands of years… rely on snitches. If someone posts something really stupid, it will get back to the boss (like the intern who posted Halloween pics of himself after blowing off work for a “family crisis”).

  15. Conformist138 says:

    And FYI, employers: If an employee says something lame about their employer on Facebook, odds are only their friends will notice or care and those same friends already know how much the employee hates their job. But if the employer makes a stink and demands it be removed, or they fire the employee? Well, that’s gonna go viral by morning. (See: Streisand Effect)

    The thing is, pick your battles. There is almost no benefit to employers snooping on employees, but there can a ton of backlash.

  16. Droford says:

    I suppose for once it could be a good thing I live in MD. I have never signed up for facebook/twitter/myspace or any other junk like that and don’t intend to do so, and would hate to think that if I should ever find myself looking for a job that I’d not stand a chance because Im some sort of “social media phobic”..

  17. blueman says:

    This whole hysteria is based on a single story that cited some unnamed person citing some unnamed company that asked for Facebook login info. Nobody has cited a specific case of this actually happening.

    But these brave politicians are going all out to tackle this major issue — because it’s a whole lot easier than trying to solve real problems.

  18. AllanG54 says:

    It’s comical….there’s probably a hell of lot more “bigwigs” in jail for white collar crime than there are small guys. Just go through the news stories for the last year. No one is asking for their passwords and frankly, I doubt the clowns from Lehman or Enron really disclosed too much of their dealings outside of their circle of friends anyway. If you want to send me for a drug test fine, if you want to run my criminal record (or lack thereof) fine. But that’s where it needs to end.

  19. somedaysomehow says:

    Here’s my question, and it’s a critical one that I think has gotten lost in the shuffle. Excerpt from the MD bill: “AN EMPLOYER MAY NOT REQUEST OR REQUIRE THAT AN EMPLOYEE OR APPLICANT DISCLOSE ANY USER NAME, PASSWORD, OR OTHER MEANS FOR ACCESSING A

    I know of an employer who has potential hires log on to Facebook while at the interview and show what’s on their page, as a way to get around asking for passwords. I think it’s ludicrous. Do you think “other means” addresses that? If not, this bill does not go far enough. The intent of the law is that the employers do not have access to something that is personal and private. Circumventing the law by conducting business this way follows the letter of the law and not the spirit.

  20. quieterhue says:

    Seems to me that employers are being lazy. They don’t want to bother with a full background/references check and/or they don’t trust the in-person interview as a way of determining a person’s character. Personally I think that an interview + criminal check + checking references provides more than enough information. Frankly, if the person hasn’t done anything illegal, what they do in their free time is none of the employer’s business.

  21. JonBoy470 says:

    I must say I’m 100% behind this law in MD. Now what would be truly epic is if Facebook themselves were to initiate legal action against companies that were engaging in this practice.

  22. Alliance to Restore the Republic of the United States of America says:

    I’ll be job hunting in a few months upon my return to the States. I honestly can’t wait for a company to try to pull this on me. I’ll get their request in writing and walk it straight over to the nearest attorney’s office.