Social Media Update – Employee Facebook Passwords

Can I ask my employees/job applicants for passwords to their Facebook account?

InSouth Carolina, employers are still allowed to ask for this information. However, as of January 2013, there are six (6) different states where this is prohibited. Maryland, Michigan, Illinois, Delaware, California and New Jersey all have new laws taking effect this year that prohibit employers from requiring their employees or job applicants to provide passwords to personal social media accounts such as Facebook.

South Carolina Representatives Gilliard, King, Jefferson, Anderson, Hosey, Mack, Stavrinakis and as of May 2012, Whipper, have proposed legislation that would also prohibit employers from requesting this type of information (see H.B. 5105).The legislation was introduced and referred to the House Committee on Judiciary in March 2012. At the end of session, the bill was still in the judiciary committee.

Other states considering similar laws areMinnesota (H.F. 2963),Missouri (H.B. 2060),New York (S.B. 6938) and Washington (S.B. 6637).

In March 2012, U.S. Representative Ed Perlmuttera fromColorado proposed an amendment to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) legislation that would have prevented current or potential employers from seeking access to employee Facebook accounts. However, the amendment was shot down by the House of Representatives. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal says he is still working on a bill to make such actions illegal on the federal level.

Facebook has weighed in on employers asking for personal passwords.  Facebook Chief Privacy Officer for Policy Erin Eganstated said in an article that Facebook will “take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges. While we will continue to do our part, it is important that people on Facebook understand they have a right to keep their password to themselves, and we will do our best to protect that right.”

We will continue to keep you updated on the status of theSouth Carolina and federal legislation.

About Collins & Lacy, P.C.

Collins & Lacy is a statewide business defense firm in South Carolina that delivers legal representation for our clients through solid preparation, execution, and client-oriented service aimed at success. Located in the State’s capital city of Columbia, the firm represents local, regional and national clients in the areas of construction; hospitality/retail and entertainment law; insurance/bad faith; products liability; professional liability; commercial transportation; privacy, data management, and cybersecurity; mediation; and governmental affairs/issue advocacy.