Laws target social media privacy

— You’ve heard of employers asking for resumes and references, but Facebook passwords?

A growing number of employers around the country are demanding that current and prospective employees fork over the passwords to their social media profiles. Which begs the question, is such a request an invasion of privacy, or even legal?

According to Graig Zappia, an employment attorney with Tully Rinckey PLLC, it’s totally legal, which is why Albany County Legislature Chairman Shawn Morse is pushing for legislation to outlaw the trend.

“I think invading people’s privacy is worth protecting and I wanted to do it before it became a problem,” said Morse.

Morse’s proposed legislation is still in the drafting stages but he said he hopes to introduce it to the legislature in May for a vote in June. It would prohibit any employer in Albany County from asking for or obtaining the password to a current or future employee’s social media pages, such as Facebook or Twitter.

“I understand … that employers certainly have the right to ask for things that are important to them but when people choose to have their Facebook private I don’t think anyone has a right to demand that as part of a hiring process or maintaining your employment,” said Morse.

Maryland recently passed legislation banning the practice, Connecticut has taken steps to address the issue and there’s a proposed bill idling in the New York State Senate similar in nature to Morse’s.

“There’s been a firestorm recently on these types of legislation,” said Zappia. “All of a sudden it’s picked up some steam.”

Zappia said he sees both sides of the argument, calling it a “legitimate privacy issue for employees and a legitimate business interest when hiring or maintaining employees in the workplace.”

If he was advising an employer, Zappia said he’d caution against using anything found on a personal social networking page to sway an employment decision.

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