In 2010 Robert Collins was asked to provide his Facebook user name and password during a recertification job interview. He was applying for a security job at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. They searched his account, through pictures, friends and private messages, looking to see if there was any gang affiliation. Afterwards Collins said he felt violated and his story spread like wildfire around the US.
Over the past decade social media has risen in popularity. After people accepted its presence in their daily social lives, it began to spill over into their work lives. This caused employers to craft social media policies. Due to incidents of questionable interview and hiring practices, employees and job seekers became concerned about the fairness of these policies.
Passage of State Laws inspires Federal
The following states passed laws to protect job-seekers: Maryland, Illinois, California, Michigan, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Arkansas, Washington, Oregon, and Vermont. (Note: the laws passed in some of these states will not legally take effect until January 1, 2014.) Legislation is currently on the table in other states; click here to see status of bills in other states and specifics of bills already passed.
With so many states interested, a bill has been proposed to the Federal Government. The Password Protection Act of 2013 was introduced on May 21st 2013 and is currently in committee. Click here to track its progress.
Laws received mixed reactions
There have been mixed reactions to the progress of these bills. Some people strongly support the passage. They felt like they were between a rock and a hard place because while they didn’t want to divulge their password, they really needed the job. Though it was a choice of whether or not to provide their passwords, they felt they would lose the job opportunity if they didn’t.
There are people who range from neutral to disapproving because they feel that the situation was blown out of proportion by a few interviews that were made very public, while in actuality it is not common practice. The ones that lean more towards the disapproving side feel that it is a waste of the lawmaker’s time to focus on this issue when they could be working on more widespread pressing issues.
Taking another perspective are some financial institutions on Wall Street who are fighting to monitor their employees social media accounts. They want to oversee if any financial advice is being dispensed and what it is. They would like to prevent any law breaking activities from happening, which could cause significant troubles for the firms were this behavior to occur.
How does this compare with Germany?
Germany has higher Internet security restrictions put in place. They approach this same problem a little differently. Part of the Data Protection Act of 1998 is the Principle of Transparency, which states that an applicant is to be informed of how their personal information will be investigated and how it will be used in the application process. Therefore, though a company can use publically available information from social media, they have to follow the principle and be careful about potential discrimination backlash.
How do you think social media will continue to affect the employer-employee relationship?