A bill meant to shield employees from employers who want access to their social media account passwords was proposed to have been amended to allow exceptions for certain employers. The provision however was “withdrawn,” King 5 reports.
Last year, the Associated Press uncovered an emerging trend where employers were asking employees and potential hires for their passwords to personal sites, like Facebook and Twitter.
In an effort to protect the privacy of individuals in or searching for a job, Senator Steve Hobbs of the state of Washington proposed a state bill that would make it illegal to ask for passwords to such social media accounts. While the bill would only apply to the state of Washington – and it’s not a federal bill – it may set the tone for the rest of the country. Some states like Maryland, California, and Michigan have passed similar legislation, while other states like Texas are pending. After filing the bill, Hobbs reasoned that even though with the Internet society is more connected, that “doesn’t mean employers have a right to read your email or drop by to take a look around your house.”
However pressure from businesses led to a proposed amendment from the House Labor Committee on the basis of probable “illegal activities by employees,” or the leaking of proprietary information. While this amendment wouldn’t have given employers outright access to poke and prod into employee’s lives, it would have given employers the power to frisk employees’ social media account for work-related transgressions that result in internal investigations.
The actual process of looking through the social media account, according to the amendment, would have taken place in the presence of the employee and any other personal details surfaced that are unrelated to the investigation would be kept off the record.
Of course, there was a glaring loophole: Should they choose, employers could reprimand employees for even inconsequential infractions and within the employer’s legal “right” demand said employees’ passwords to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, or other social networks. The new amendment “would turn this bill into a privacy bill into an employer fishing expedition,” American Civil Liberties Union of Washington legislative director Shankar Narayan told The Oregonian.”That’s the not the bill we signed up for.”
This latest proposed amendment has been withdrawn - a relief to privacy groups and employees, but this won’t be the last of these privacy-challenging amendments. Organizations representing businesses are working closely with lawmakers to shape a bill that will address the fear of “rogue” employees who’d divulge company secrets.