Social Networking Online Protection Act would Prevent Employers and Schools from Requiring Usernames and Passwords

Legislation currently in Congress – H. R. 537, the Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA) – would enhance social media privacy by protecting users of social networking sites from having to divulge personal information such as usernames and passwords to employers and schools. Re-introduced by Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-16), Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9), and Congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY-11), SNOPA would protect employees, job applicants, students, and people facing disciplinary action from being required to give information used to access online accounts. The full text of the SNOPA legislation is available at http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr537/text.

“The lack of clarity in the law puts individuals in a position where they either have to give up vital, private information, or risk losing their job, potential job, or enrollment in school and involvement in the school’s sports programs,” Representative Engel, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, stated in a press release available at http://engel.house.gov/latest-news1/reps-engel-schakowsky-grimm-seek-to-protect-online-content/. “Frankly, when there are no laws prohibiting institutions from requiring this information, it becomes a common practice.”

SNOPA would apply to websites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, as well as email and any other personal user generated content. The legislation would “prohibit current or potential employers or educational institutions from requiring a username, password, or other access to online content, or disciplining, discriminating, or denying employment to individuals, or punish them for refusing to volunteer such information.” Employers who violate any provision of SNOPA may be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $10,000. The bill was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce.

As reported previously in the ESR News blog, several states have adopted legislation to protect the online privacy of employees and applicants. Maryland passed the first law in the nation to prohibit employers from requesting the social media passwords or accessing the social media accounts of prospective and current employees in 2012 with Senate Bill 433 (SB 433)/House Bill 964 (HB 964). Illinois became the second state to prevent employers from demanding social network passwords with legislation – House Bill 3782 (HB 3782) – that amended ‘The Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act’ while California became the third state by passing Assembly Bill 1844 (AB 1844).

At least 29 states currently have legislation that has been introduced or is pending in 2013 to prevent employers from requesting usernames and passwords to various social media and personal Internet accounts of employees and job applicants to get or keep a job, according the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). A list of legislation regarding employer access to social media information as of March 6, 2013 is available on the NCSL website at http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/telecom/employer-access-to-social-media-passwords-2013.aspx.

To help employers understand the problems faced when performing so-called “social media background checks,” Attorney Lester Rosen, Founder and CEO of San Francisco area-based background check firm Employment Screening Resources (ESR), has written a white paper titled ‘Managing the Risks of Using the Internet for Employment Screening Background Checks.’ The complimentary white paper – which offers potential solutions to possible legal issues involving discrimination, accuracy, and privacy – is available at: http://www.esrcheck.com/Download/.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority®’ – is a nationwide background screening provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®). For more information about background check solutions from ESR, please visit http://www.esrcheck.com/, call Toll Free 888.999.4474, or email clientsupport@esrcheck.com.

Sources:

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr537/text

http://engel.house.gov/latest-news1/reps-engel-schakowsky-grimm-seek-to-protect-online-content/

http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/2012/12/27/new-privacy-laws-for-collection-and-use-of-personal-data-of-consumers-focus-on-background-checks/

http://167.102.242.144/smb/mgaleg.maryland.gov/google_docs$/2012rs/chapters_noln/Ch_233_sb0433t.pdf

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=84&GA=97&DocTypeId=HB&DocNum=3782&GAID=11&LegID=61758&SpecSess=&Session=

http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201120120AB1844&search_keywords=

About Employment Screening Resources® (ESR):

Founded by safe hiring expert Attorney Les Rosen in 1997, Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority®’– provides accurate and actionable information that empowers employers to make informed hiring decisions for the benefit of their organizations, employees, and the public. CEO Rosen literally wrote the book on background checks with “The Safe Hiring Manual” and ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®), a distinction held by a small percent of screening firms. Employers choosing ESR know they have selected an agency meeting the highest industry standards. To learn more about ESR, visit http://www.esrcheck.com or call toll free 888.999.4474.

About ESR News:

The Employment Screening Resources (ESR®) News blog – ESR News – provides employment screening information for employers, recruiters, and jobseekers on a variety of topics including credit reports, criminal records, data privacy, discrimination, E-Verify, jobs reports, legal updates, negligent hiring, workplace violence, and use of search engines and social network sites for background checks. For more information about ESR News or to send comments or questions, please email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at tahearn@esrcheck.com. To subscribe to the ESR News Blog Feed, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/feed/. To subscribe to the complimentary ESRcheck Report monthly newsletter, please visit http://www.esrcheck.com/Newsletter/.