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Congress Might Ban Employers From Asking For Facebook Passwords

A bill has been introduced in Congress that would ban employers from asking employees and job applicants for their Facebook user names and passwords. Let's take a snoopy look-see at the "Social Networking Online Protection Act," shall we?

Democratic Reps. Eliot Engel (N.Y.) and Jan Schakowsky introduced the bill, which would prohibit managers from saying, "...aaaaaand we're going to need your Facebook user name and password. Could you write it down for me?" Employers who dare to ask would face a $10,000 federal fine.

As Rep. Engel says on his website:

"Social media sites have become a widespread communications tool – both personally and professionally – all across the world. 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," said Rep. Engel.

Yes, passwords are a gateway and we all know what that leads, don't we? Generally not to good things. Even Facebook wants employers to stop snoop dogging on employees.

No one knows how often, or exactly how many, employees and applicants are being asked for their Facebook user names and passwords, but it happened to a Maryland employee who went public with his story last year, and now Maryland has banned employers from asking for Facebook user names and passwords.

But on the federal level there are no such protections yet. Of course, GOP members of the U.S. House of Representatives could vote down SNOPA just like they did the last time workplace-related Facebook snooping remedies were included as an amendment to a FCC reform package. Bummer. Voting down SNOPA will be sort of like an online transvaginal probe for all hard-working Americans who use Facebook. With any luck, we won't be forced to look at the screen while it's happening.

Not all is lost, however, because Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are working on their own anti-snooping legislation that could be introduced sometime this year. I'll give a digital thumbs up to that. Now if the rest of us would stop being so damn stupid, all would be well.

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