SNOPA to employers seeking passwords: Access denied

Apr 30, 2012 by Nancy Owano report

(Phys.org) -- A Bill has been introduced in Washington to stop employers and schools from demanding access to people’s social network accounts. On Friday, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) presented SNOPA, which stands for the Social Networking Online Protection Act. Under SNOPA, employers can’t ask current workers or new job applicants for access to their social networking accounts. If employers ignored the ruling they would pay $10,000 as civil penalty. The ban on such information demands would also apply to schools.

They would be forbidden to ask for social networking log-in information, to support their decisions on enrollment or discipline. The SNOPA ruling would extend to all school levels, from colleges and universities down to K-12 schools.

The move to introduce the Bill follows reports that employers are asking applicants for information so they can access applicants’ Facebook accounts as part of the interview process. Ostensibly the hirers justify this as wanting to see if the person is a team fit and capable of showing the right kind of behavior within the job’s professional setting. Demands are also placed on present employees. A case in point involved a teacher’s aide in Michigan who was fired after she refused to hand over her Facebook password to supervisors. Their demand had followed a complaint by a parent on the aide’s Friend list who found a photo objectionable.

Those backing the legislation say it’s a disturbing trend. Engel said there were “countless examples” of employers requiring an applicant to divulge user name and password as part of the hiring process. “A person’s so-called ‘digital footprint’ is largely unprotected,” he said in a statement.

Such infringements, say SNOPA backers, also infringe on other protective shields. Viewing a site may reveal applicant information that is not allowed to be up for consideration at the time of the interview, such as religion or sexual orientation.

Facebook would welcome such a bill. Facebook has called attention to a "distressing increase" in password-demand cases in the United States over the past few years. While there is no federal law yet to remedy the issue, a number of voices on the state level have expressed dissent over coerced access. Maryland is in the front lines seeking to ban the practice.

As an example of concern, the Maryland Department of Corrections was requiring access to applicants’ Facebook pages to view profiles, as part of screening those seeking work in jails, and looking for possible illegal activity and gang affiliations. One such instance involved a former corrections officer wanting to be recertified for his job following a leave of absence. He complied, as an interviewer roamed his private messages, pictures, and posts.

The Department, however, has revised its policy and asks only for voluntary participation to view profiles. According to an AP report, the corrections department last year assessed 2,689 applications. Out of the 2,689, seven candidates were rejected in part because of information found on their social media profiles. Another candidate was rejected solely because of content on a profile. That candidate, along with others, used social media profiles that had images of them showing gang signs.

A bill that would protect against bosses viewing employee passwords awaits signature by the Maryland governor.

Explore further: Survey: Harassment a common part of online life

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User comments : 11

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Lurker2358
4.5 / 5 (16) Apr 30, 2012
They should even ban credit reports, except in cases of hiring someone for finance related positions.

It's none of my bosses' damn business what my finances are.

If the 4th amendment requires the government to have a warrant to search your home, then it damn well ought to apply to corporations searching employees' and applicants' internet accounts, or automobiles.

Any congressman who votes against this bill should be recalled or impeached immediately, whatever the procedure is anyway.
Caliban
4.4 / 5 (9) Apr 30, 2012
@lurker,

Agreed. Just another way for employers to compel obedience.

Sean_W
1 / 5 (4) Apr 30, 2012
This would be a good bill if it is not hiding something horrible which is what politicians love to do. Here is a free milk and cookies bill with a bit of small print about the milk being poisonous and the cookies being made with broken glass.
PhotonX
4.9 / 5 (8) Apr 30, 2012
Good. It's about time there's some pushback. I friend told me about this a while back and I could hardly believe it. At least, I didn't want to believe that employers are demanding password access to private information. Abuse of power by employers is definitely on the rise, emboldened as they are by the continuing attacks on labor, as evidenced by recent events in Wisconsin.

They should even ban credit reports, except in cases of hiring someone for finance related positions.

It's none of my bosses' damn business what my finances are.

Agreed, and well said.
Parsec
5 / 5 (6) Apr 30, 2012
This would be a good bill if it is not hiding something horrible which is what politicians love to do. Here is a free milk and cookies bill with a bit of small print about the milk being poisonous and the cookies being made with broken glass.

You might want to be a tad more specific about what you object to. Otherwise your just ranting.
kaasinees
3 / 5 (2) Apr 30, 2012
It is terrible enough that this bill is required for it to be an invasion in privacy in the first place.
Fascism seems to be on the rise... i am afraid this bill is not going to change it one bit.
Build your local community, and prepare for something bad.
Code_Warrior
5 / 5 (4) Apr 30, 2012
What about someone like me who does not have a Facebook or other social media account? Will I be accused of lying and/or refusing to comply?

If employers collude to extort this information then a law is the only protection against it.
jsdarkdestruction
5 / 5 (2) May 01, 2012
I strongly support this and urge all members of congress to vote yes despite our current political climate and that the senate also pass it and that president barack obama sign it. i think we can all agree this is a step to far and impedes peoples rights to privacy. I think we should stop drug testing for employment too. if an employee can do the job sober and well everyday it should be none of an employers concern what they do when not working.
TheKnowItAll
1 / 5 (1) May 01, 2012
I'm a bit disgusted that they had to pass a bill for that. Either the general public has no morals and are actually doing that or the government is passing this bill because they have nothing else better to do.
islatas
5 / 5 (1) May 01, 2012
This bill is a huge breath of fresh air. Who knew SOPA was in need of an 'N' to be great?

I'm a bit disgusted that they had to pass a bill for that. Either the general public has no morals and are actually doing that or the government is passing this bill because they have nothing else better to do.


Try reading the article instead of being such a smarty pants. OF COURSE businesses and branches of the government are doing it.

Royale
1 / 5 (1) May 01, 2012
I'm a bit disgusted that they had to pass a bill for that. Either the general public has no morals and are actually doing that or the government is passing this bill because they have nothing else better to do.

Yea, really islatas, you're right.
TheKnowItAll, did you read at all? 'Either the general public has no morals'??? So the companies aren't to blame here? It's the 'general public'? Either that or the government is doing busy work.. I love that both of those options don't look to companies at all.
Is it because you love Fox News? Or simply that corporations are people so they're part of your 'general public' slur?