A new bill proposed by Eliot Engel (NY-D) and Jan Schakowsky (IL-D) known as the “Social Networking Online Protection Act” is the first legislation in Congress that addresses the practice of pre-employment Facebook screenings and is intended to make the practice itself an illegal act. Should SNOPA be signed into law, it would outright ban employers from requiring their employees to submit confidential information (such as passwords or other login credentials) to their social networking accounts. If SNOPA passes, any employer in violation of the law would be subject to a $10,000 civil penalty. Congressman Engel issued the following statement regarding SNOPA:
“We must draw the line somewhere and define what is private. No one would feel comfortable going to a public place and giving out their username and passwords to total strangers. They should not be required to do so at work, at school, or while trying to obtain work or an education. This is a matter of personal privacy and makes sense in our digital world.”
Many others echo Engel’s sentiments on privacy and believe that is not a privilege, but a right. Facebook’s policies instruct users to never relinquish their private login information to any individual or organization, but there is currently no law in the United States or internationally to enforce such a policy.
Recently, online privacy has emerged as a very hot topic and has sparked debates, both on and offline. Late last month, WebiMax CEO and social media expert Ken Wisnefski contributed an article to the Washington Post in which he discusses the importance of Internet privacy. Wisnefski believes that employers should not request confidential login information from prospective employees as a condition of the hiring process. This past Friday, reports surfaced from various news outlets which indicate that several U.S. Congressmen agree with his point of view.
The months ahead are likely to see the introduction of groundbreaking new laws pertaining to important issues such as cybersecurity and privacy. Currently, SNOPA looks to be at the forefront of that legislation and may make history as one of first American laws specifically regarding social networking privacy.
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