Bill Would Keep Employers From Asking for Social Media Information

April 2, 2012

Inside Insight

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Don’t let it be said that at least some members of the S.C. General Assembly aren’t trying to keep up with modern technology.

A bill introduced last Thursday by Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, would prevent employers from asking employees or prospective employees to provide them with passwords to their social networking accounts.

In addition, under the proposed legislation, refusal to provide a password, account information or access to an account or profile on a social networking website could not be as the used as the basis for personnel action, including termination, demotion or promotion.

The bill has six co-sponsors, all Democrats.

In recent weeks there’s been increased focus nationwide on employers purportedly seeking the login information and passwords for social media sites such as Facebook in order to monitor potential employees.

“The employers then spend time scouring the page for whatever intelligence they can gather,” according to a report in the Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel. “Some employers demand that new hires ‘friend’ them on Facebook or allow them to follow Twitter accounts.”

With the economy still in the tank, employers understand that they have the upper hand when it comes to hiring and job-seekers may find themselves forced to pick between employment and privacy.

While, as the News Sentinel pointed out, there might be instances when it is appropriate for employers to monitor social networking sites of workers – such as individuals who require security clearance – the vast majority of employers have no legitimate reason to invade the private lives of workers.

Ultimately, some job-seekers have indeed found themselves forced to choose between employment and privacy. It is a choice they shouldn’t have to make.

It will be interesting to see how much pushback Gilliard’s bill gets from the business community here in South Carolina.