Back in March, I wrote a blog about how some potential employers were asking job candidates for their social media passwords in order to screen their accounts.
On May 9, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Representative Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and a number of cosponsors filed the Password Protection Act of 2012 (PPA) in the Senate and House. The bill is meant to prevent employers from strong-arming employees and job applicants into sharing information from their personal social networking accounts.
Who and what is covered
The PPA is sweeping in scope. According to the ACLU web site, "It doesn't just apply to just Facebook or social networks, but rather to any situation when an employer coerces an employee into providing access to information held on any computer that isn't owned or controlled by the employer." Even if the employee is looking at a social network on his work computer, his employer still can't force that employee to disclose a password, because "that would allow the employer to access another computer (that of the social network)." This protection extends to Gmail accounts, photo sharing sites, and an employee's own smartphone.
Who and what is not covered
The ALCU believes the Act doesn't offer protection to enough people. Some of the exceptions include:
- It does not cover students (but the Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA) recently filed by Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY) covers both employers and students).
- It allows states to exempt government employees or employees who work with children under the age of 13.
- It allows the executive branch to exempt whole classes of workers if they come into contact with classified information, including soldiers.
Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.