Social Networking Online Protection Act Seeks to Protect Privacy

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Renee Radia
Renee Radia
May 2, 2012
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Earlier this year, the story began circulating that some employers were asking new job candidates to hand over their Facebook logins and passwords. The candidates weren’t required to give such information, but were likely not considered for the positions if they declined. Rightfully so, there was much backlash over this invasion of privacy. Since then, Maryland has become the first state to pass a bill banning employers from this shady tactic, and now, the Social Networking Online Protection Act has been introduced on a national level.

The bill was introduced Friday by Democratic congressmen Reps. Eliot Engel (NY) and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.). The bill would ban not only employers, but also schools and colleges, from putting requirements on anyone to turn over his or her login and password for any social networking website. It would also not let these establishments discipline, discriminate, or deny employment or acceptance to anyone who does not give access to their accounts. Anyone requesting this information under these circumstances would face a $10,000 fine.

Of course, the Social Networking Online Protection Act does not prohibit anyone from performing searches on candidates to see what information they have available publicly on their various profiles. This again reminds us to check our privacy settings, and not to post anything that might sneak up on you and backfire at a later point. Although nothing has been filed yet, Facebook has threatened to take action against companies that ask for access to its current or potential employees’ accounts, since this goes against its clearly stated Legal Terms.

Supporters are hoping that the bill will come to see the light of day. While the bill has no official Republican co-sponsor, some right-wing congressmen were working on a draft of the bill so this may very well mean that both sides will support it.

Bills don’t come without questions, and many are sure to arise. Does the act protect access to individuals’ email accounts? What defines a “social network”? Are the terms different for social media community managers? For now, we can only hope that the bill will pass and that this invasion of privacy will stop.

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