U.S. House of Representatives Takes on Law Governing Employers Asking for Facebook Login Info

Following Maryland’s lead in protecting job applicants, Reps. Eliot Engel (D - New York) and Jan Schakowsky (D - Illinois) introduced legislation to the U.S. House of Representatives called the Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA).

SNOPA actually covers a lot more ground than just protecting job seekers from having to divulge their Faceook login credentials to potential employers, also covering applicants to school and universities as well as those already employed or enrolled.

“Social media sites have become a widespread communications tool – both personally and professionally – all across the world,” said Rep. Engel in a blog post announcing the legislation. “However, a person’s so-called ‘digital footprint’ is largely unprotected. There have been a number of reports about employers requiring new applicants to give their username and password as part of the hiring process. The same has occurred at some schools and universities. Part of the attraction to social networking is that you can feel free to interact with those you wish to, and post content as if it were part of a group dynamic. Passwords are the gateway to many avenues containing personal and sensitive content – including email accounts, bank accounts and other information.”

Rep. Eliot Engel

SNOPA has two thrusts, according to the post:

  1) Prohibit current or potential employers from requiring a username, password or other access to online content. It does not permit employers to demand such access to discipline, discriminate or deny employment to individuals, nor punish them for refusing to volunteer the information.

  2) Apply the same restrictions to colleges and universities, and K-12 schools as well.

As plenty of people have pointed out, demanding login credentials from anyone is already a violation of the user’s agreement with the service provider, not to mention possibly illegal in and of itself. Nevertheless, seeing this issue get such strong and swift attention at the federal level should help countless job and school applicants sleep a little better.
Tags:  Facebook, Misc, Engel, SNOPA