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Laws for Social Media Passwords and Jobs

Social media passwords and employers have been a hot button issue since the popularity of these sites has gone up over the years. Students applying to go to colleges and universities are also under scrutiny from admissions offices based on what they have posted on the internet. Sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are a good way to stay in contact with people and getting to know someone, but is that necessarily good when it comes to job seeking, being employed, and applying to schools?

In 2011, 24 percent of job seekers were asked to provide their social media profiles on a job application or during an interview. There are many states that protect people from being forced or persuaded to give employers the password to their social media sites. Maryland was the first to pass such a law in April 2012. Other states with similar laws include: California, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico Utah, Oregon, and Washington. There are multiple states that have pending state legislatures to protect people’s information on social media sites.

Employers, colleges, and universities have been known to pry into the lives of people through their social media sites without federal legislation. State password protection laws are put in place to prohibit employers and schools from asking and/or requiring log-in credentials for personal social media accounts. The core of these laws assume the content on a restricted social media account is private no matter how many people the user invites to view the page, and regardless of the relationship a person has with the user.

In addition to protecting the users, an employer’s access to someone’s account can put a third party individual’s privacy at risk also. The person using the account can view all of the user’s friends, messages, photos and anything else on the account, which then involves multiple people becoming involved with a privacy issue.

Another issue is dealing with companies with multi-state locations: since social media password laws are not federal and are handled from state to state. Because of this, a law firm in New Jersey can’t ask for passwords, but the same law firm in Florida can, which some job seekers and employees might find unfair.

As social media changes over time, so will the legal complexity of protecting students, job seekers, and employees from being discriminated against. Overall, elected officials are working toward protecting the privacy of people and to protect them from the discrimination they may face based on what is on their personal social media sites.

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