Illinois Bans Employer Social Snooping - The UpStream

Illinois Bans Employer Social Snooping

posted Saturday Aug 4, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Illinois Bans Employer Social Snooping

Since the trend of employers asking for Facebook passwords became widely known, a bill was defeated and then resurrected to prevent the practice once and for all. Not wanting to wait on the federal government, however, Illinois has become the second state to pass the bill on their own.

The law was signed into law on August 1st, banning employers from asking their employees or perspective employees for their social networking passwords. This law is intended to protect the privacy of employees and job candidates from employers finding out private information about people. It also prevents an employer from reprimanding employees based on information on social sites that would normally be private. If you say it publicly, however, I would imagine that is not covered.

What do people think of this law so far? Hit the break for reactions.

Christine Radogno, state senate minority leader and co-sponsor of the bill, said,

Employers certainly aren't allowed to ask for the keys to an employee's home to nose around there, and I believe that same expectation of personal privacy and personal space should be extended to a social networking account. This law will not only protect employees' reasonable rights to privacy on the Web, but will shield employers from unexpected legal action.

We don't think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don't think it's the right thing to do. But it also may cause problems for the employers that they are not anticipating. For example, if an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don't hire that person.

It won't entirely protect employees, as most people post things on social sites as public. Many employers spot check Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles to make sure employees aren't saying anything derogatory about the company, but if you're doing that in public, it seems like you've got something coming your way.

Andrew Walls, research vice president at Gartner, said about that matter,

This does not mean that monitoring of publicly available content is to be avoided. Monitoring and analysis of social media content is a good way to assess market reaction to corporate activities and to assess a variety of issues related to employee satisfaction or happiness.

Lisa Vaas, on Sophos' Naked Security blog, wrote,

The upshot: you can still be as law-spurning, drunken and/or unprofessional as you want on Facebook and other sites, but at least for now, you have a chance to keep that behavior out of employers' sight - if you work in Illinois or Maryland, that is. Of course, if you're one of the estimated 13 million US Facebook users who don't use and/or are oblivious to the site's privacy controls, the new law means zilch.

Have you been a victim of social networking discrimination at work? Let us know in the comments.

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