Earlier this week, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law a bill that prohibits employers from requiring or requesting that employees or applicants reveal the username sand passwords for personal accounts on websites such as Facebook and Twitter. Governor Quinn, in signing the bill, said it was necessary to “protect workers and their right to personal privacy.” Illinois in is now the second state to enact this type legislation, following the lead of Maryland, which enacted a similar law in May.
This common-sense measure recognizes the reality that Americans are increasingly using online social networks to communicate with family and friends, share photos and express their own political views. By seeking usernames and passwords for these online networks, current and prospective employers are seeking to bypass privacy settings and gain access to the materials that users intended to keep private.
Some of this information could relate to things that employers are prohibited from asking about, including marital status, religion or sexual orientation – and revealing this information could lead to discrimination in hiring.
Similar bills have been introduced in Congress, the Password Protection Act (PPA) and the Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA). So far, the legislation has not moved, but hopefully the Illinois law will help spur action in Washington.
Personal privacy is still possible in an age of technology when we increasingly live our lives online – but in some cases the government must ensure that privacy is protected. The Illinois law is a good start.
You can learn more about social media privacy both in schools and in the workplace here, and stay informed on digital privacy issues by following the ACLU’s “Demand your dotRights” campaign on Twitter and Facebook.