Human Resources News & Insights

Bill would bar asking for applicants’ social media passwords

When some businesses began asking job applicants for their social media passwords, critics were immediately up in arms over privacy issues. So you knew it was only a matter of time before something like this wound up on the table.

The Password Protection Act of 2012 (PPA) has been introduced in both the House and the Senate in an effort to keep employers from requiring prospective — and current — employees to hand over personal info, such as passwords for social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

The PPA would also keep employers from accessing info on any computer that isn’t owned or controlled by the employee. That includes things like private email accounts, smartphones and photo-sharing websites.

The PPA was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D, Conn.)  along with the help of a number of co-sponsors. In the House, an identical companion bill was introduced by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D, CO) and Rep. Martin Heinrich (D, NM).

Here are some of the highlights of what the PPA would do:

  • Prohibit employers from forcing prospective or current employees to provide access to their own private account as a condition of employment
  • Forbid companies from discriminating or retaliating against a prospective/current employee because he or she refuses to provide access to a password-protected account, and
  • Prohibit adverse employment-related actions as a consequence of an employee’s failure to provide access to their private accounts.

However, the bill would allow employers to: permit  social networking with the office on a voluntary basis; set policies for employer-operated computer systems; and hold workers accountable for stealing data from their employers.

Companies that violate the PPA could be subject to financial penalties.

To view the full text of the proposed legislation, click.

We’ll keep you posted on the outcome of the bill.


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  1. Good. If employers want to review the content under a “friend” status, I see no harm in that. That is what the public at large has access to; but it goes too far to dig into employee’s personal account information. What’s next? Asking for our banking passwords? Asking for a key to our homes?

    People want to delve too deeply into our privacy.

  2. It’s organizational behavior like this that warrants government intervention to protect individual liberties from corporate intrusion into our personal lives. Then corporations want to scream “foul” when the government does step in to increase regulations. If it wasn’t for stupid behavior like this, then organizations themselves wouldn’t have to deal with all they are required to deal with. I agree with the government on this one.

  3. I hadn’t heard of this issue. It is really sad that employers would even think that they had some sort of right to this personal information, and even more so that the government has to create a law to try and stop it. I would think that this is common sense and enforceable by laws already on the books.

    Employers require (or at least should) that their passwords be kept private, of course, they can and do have back door access to company business, email etc. – fine, but I don’t share my personal passwords with anyone.

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