Maryland bans employers from asking for employee social media passwords

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Maryland became the first state in the U.S. to ban employers from asking their employees and applicants for the passwords to their personal social media accounts.

A state Democratic-led effort co-sponsored the bill, which “prohibits an employer from requiring or requesting employees or job applicants to disclose electronic passwords, such as for social media sites,” reported Maryland American Civil Liberties Union Legislative Director Melissa Goemann told The Daily Caller that despite the Democratic leadership, support for the bill was largely bipartisan.

The bill passed both houses of the Maryland General Assembly — unanimously in the Senate, and 128-10 in the House — in the final hours of Maryland’s 90-day legislative session on Monday. Similar legislation is pending in Illinois, California, Minnesota, Michigan and Massachusetts, and a similar proposal may soon be introduced in New Jersey.

After the bill’s passage on Monday, the ACLU reported on its blog that it had taken up the case of a former division corrections officer for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, Robert Collins, after he was asked for the passwords to his social media accounts during a job interview.

Feeling that both his privacy, and the privacy of his friends and family that “didn’t ask for that,” were violated, the ACLU said that Collins contacted them on the way out of the interview.

In a statement by the ACLU, Collins said, “I am excited to know that our esteemed policymakers in Maryland found it important to protect the privacy of Maryland’s citizens.”

“I believe privacy should not be an alternative in lieu of securing employment, but a fundamental right,” Collins said.

The bill currently awaits the signature of Gov. Martin O’Malley. Maryland ACLU legislative director Melissa Goemann told TheDC that the bill was a bipartisan effort and that she hadn’t “heard anything negative from the governor’s office.”

Congressional House Republicans recently shot down a bill at the federal level that would have instituted a nationwide ban against employers demanding the passwords to employee social media accounts.

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