Sunday, January 27, 2013

Michigan joins small but growing list of states that prohibit employers from asking for social media passwords

Michigan joins California, Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey in passing a law that prohibits employers (and schools too in this case) from asking applicants for social media passwords. The BNA Electronic Commerce & Law Report has the story (subscription required):

LANSING, Mich.—Michigan businesses and educational institutions are barred in most circumstances from asking employees, job applicants, students, or prospective students for passwords or other information that could be used to access private internet accounts under legislation (H.B. 5523 Substitute) signed Dec. 28 by Gov. Rick Snyder (R).

 A violation of the act—the firing, failure to hire or admit, or penalizing of an employee or student for refusing to grant access to a personal account—will be considered a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000. An individual who is the subject of a violation may bring a civil action and recover up to $1,000 in damages, plus reasonable attorneys' fees and court costs.

 Sponsor Aric Nesbitt (R) said he introduced the legislation after constituents expressed concern about reports of employers asking for account passwords. The bill is “a way of keeping up with the times,” he told BNA Dec. 19.

An employer's request for a job applicant's Facebook password is “the same as asking for an individual's P.O. box key and rummaging through their mail, or going through their living room to look at their personal picture albums,” Nesbitt said. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have privacy settings for users to restrict who can see their postings, he observed. “[W]e should respect those limits that people set,” he said.

 The measure, set to take effect immediately, does not prohibit employers or educational institutions from viewing, gaining access to, or using information about an individual that is available in the public domain. The House passed a version of the legislation in September, and it later was amended in the Senate.


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