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Nine states seek to ban employers from seeking Facebook passwords

In March, we wrote about the latest troubling trend in the job market. A growing number of public and private employers are requiring job applicants to provide their Facebook account passwords and allow the company to snoop around. At the very least, some employers are asking applicants to log into their account on a company computer and let the interviewer have full access to their personal social media information.

While it is unclear how many South Florida job seekers have been affected by this latest form of employment discrimination, this story correctly sparked outrage throughout Florida and across the country. Many states are now considering legislation to ban this practice, which should be considered a violation of workers' privacy rights.

Early last month, Maryland became the first state to address this important issue and to legally prohibit employers from asking for login information to a candidate's social media accounts.

Acting quickly, nine other states have introduced or are considering similar bills. One of these states is California, where the "Social Media Privacy Act" appears to be moving forward quickly and with much support.

One state legislator in favor of the bill explained its importance. She said: "Our social media accounts offer views into our personal lives and expose information that would be inappropriate to discuss during a job interview."

Employers cannot require job applicants to provide information about their race, religion or other factors upon which it is illegal to discriminate. But most of us include this information or references to it in our Facebook profile.

Handing over our passwords to potential employers gives them all of this protected information, and could suddenly make any of us victims of illegal employment discrimination.

Florida is not one of the states currently considering legislation to ban this practice. We can only hope that our state legislators act quickly to rectify that.

Source: Sacramento Bee, "Job Front: Social media privacy bills advance in Sacramento," Darrell Smith, April 30, 2012

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