Maryland Lawmakers Ban Employers from Requesting Facebook Credentials from Employees or Interviewees

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maryland facebook privacy lawLast week, Maryland’s House and Senate passed legislation prohibiting employers from asking for a current or prospective employee’s logins to Facebook and other social media sites. Once Governor Martin O’Malley signs the bill into law, Maryland will become the first state in the nation to pass legislation protecting employees from having employers access their social media accounts.

Maryland’s American Civil Liberties Union Director Melissa Goemann said that, “The bill is the first of its kind in the country, and has shined a spotlight on the practice of employers demanding personal social media passwords from potential hires.” Goemann became involved with the privacy concerns related to employers demanding employees’ Facebook logins when contacted by Maryland Corrections Officer Robert Collins last year. After being asked for his Facebook login during a recertification interview, Collins called Maryland’s ACLU to express concerns about this privacy violation.

The ACLU took on Collins’ case and filed a complaint with Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Gary Maynard. Geomann explained that although Maryland Democratic Senator Ron Young heard about the concerns and attempted to draft a state bill last year to outlaw such practices, the legislation never gained traction until this year when the Senator reintroduced the bill. After Maryland’s House also drafted similar legislation, the bill gained national attention.

Last month, NPR’s Robert Seigel interviewed Collins on All Things Considered:

“I was mortified when they asked me for my username and password. So he asked me for the username and password, and then he began to log onto the account. So as he continued to do what he did, I was asking him what he was looking for and what he was doing. Well, he said he was going through my messages, my wall, and my friends list and my pictures to make sure that I was not gang-affiliated.”

Following the passage of Maryland’s bill, various state and federal legislators have promised to pursue similar legislation prohibiting employers from requesting social media logins during interviews of current or prospective employees. Currently, Illinois and California are close to passing bills similar to the one passed in Maryland last week.

With the recent passage of Maryland’s legislation, employers in other states should examine their policies of requiring social media logins from interviewees or current employees. Given that employers cannot ask employees questions pertaining to private matters such as age, marital status, religion, national origin, or medical conditions, it will be interesting to see the legal implications for employers that continue to examine employees’ private social media use.

[Sources Include: NPR & The Baltimore Sun]

Image Credit: Ivelin Radkov / Shutterstock

David Angotti

David Angotti

After successfully founding and exiting an educational startup in 2009, I began helping companies with business development, search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO),... Read Full Bio
David Angotti
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  • Steven

    I work for recruitment company par time and if we would decide to ask someone to log in to their Facebook account during the interview we would have to pay a lot about it or even lose the licence to offer recruitment services ever again.

  • Dr Stan

    Although facebook and other social media offerings have created “private/friends” access tools in order to help offer a sense of privacy, let us consider for a moment the employer perspective. In a competitive business arena, human resources’ main focus is to identify viable candidates in the recruitment and screening process that are most likely to be selected for the position. Why wouldn’t a business do everything they could to find out what kind of persom they were hiring, and moreover, whether an individual is really what they represent themselves to be during that process? The higher up the organizational chart and/or the more “public” the position is, the more likely that the organization places itself at risk hiring an individual who’s personality and interests are not in alignment with the culture of the organization. This can be a costly error that most organizations would like to avoid if possible, and, in that respect, companies have used dozens of different screening, checking and assessment endeavors on their candidates overthe years. Some of these methods include, personality testing, polygraph assessments, background checks, personal references, past employment history, credit history, organizational affiliations (personal and professional), and of course, internet searches. As a professor of human resource management and a former business executive in the services industry, I am torn. I support the notion that we want the right person for the job, but I do not support the invasion of privacy that this approach espouses; specifically, intimidating a candidate into supplying potentially damaging, sensitive, and private information. Having said that, let me be less academic and more blunt: anyone who has information on a social network that is also seeking employment is a fool if they think that this imformation is actually as private as they think. Moreover, an intelligent, self-aware individual should consider removing any such sensitive or questionable infor, pictures or posts from any access anywhere on-;line while searching for a job. Why participate in the moral argument over whether its fair or not that an organization uses any means possible to get an accurate picture of the long-term investment they are about to make in an person to fill an important position? I know this sounds trite, but you can do that after you get hired. In other words, dress up, put on make up and suck in your gut during the hiring process, putting the best image of yourself forward everywhere the potential employer might look.