Maryland corrections officer Robert Collins approached the ACLU of Maryland late last year, disturbed that he was required to provide his Facebook login and password to the Maryland Division of Corrections (DOC) during a recertification interview. He had to sit there while the interviewer logged on to his account and read not only his postings, but those of his family and friends too.
"We live in a time when national security is the highest priority, but it must be delicately balanced with personal privacy," said Collins. "My fellow officers and I should not have to allow the government to view our personal Facebook posts and those of our friends, just to keep our jobs."
In this video, Officer Collins tells his story:
On January 25, the ACLU of Maryland sent a letter (PDF) to Public Safety Secretary Gary Maynard on behalf of Officer Collins, concerning the Division of Correction's blanket requirement that applicants for employment with the division, as well as current employees undergoing recertification, provide the government with their social media account usernames and personal passwords for use in employee background checks.
It has been three weeks, and we have yet to hear a response. Does this mean that Secretary Maynard has no intention of changing this policy?
The demand for Facebook login information is not only a gross breach of privacy for Officer Collins and his friends, it raises significant legal concerns under the Federal Stored Communications Act and Maryland state law, which protect privacy rights and extend protections to electronic communications.
As many of us begin to rely on sites like Facebook to stay connected to our friends and family, it's important for employers and the government to keep in mind that, for most users, Facebook is a medium for private communications. It can be adjusted to be more or less public, both by the settings and by how many people are invited to be friends. So the Maryland DOC requiring full disclosure of an employee's Facebook page is no different from your boss looking through your diary, personal emails or home videos.
Don't allow this illegal breach of privacy to continue to go unnoticed and unaddressed. Demand that Secretary Maynard stop snooping!