Maryland is on its way to being the first state to make it illegal for employers to demand Facebook passwords from applicants or workers.
The state bill has passed the Maryland legislature and is awaiting Gov. Martin O'Malley's signature to turn the legislation into law, according to the Washington Post. Advocates for the measure said the bill was necessary because it violated privacy and intimidated job seekers and employees.
The entire bill came about because of a Maryland corrections officer was asked for the password to his Facebook account after coming back on the job after a leave. Although he complied, he said he felt violated and embarrassed. “It almost seemed that my compliance was compulsory,” Robert Collins told the Associated Press.
While the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services defended the practice as a "natural extension" of a background check, once the American Civil Liberties Union issued a complaint the agency revised their policy. Now the policy is to make social media review only for participants who volunteer.
At least seven other states have introduced bills to limit employer access to social media accounts like Facebook, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has also been asked to investigate if employer access to those accounts are against federal law.
The problem with this legislation is that while states and even the nation can pass these laws, employers can still make the policy a voluntary one and discriminate against those who don't volunteer the information. We're not sure that a glimpse at someone's Facebook account shows any insight into a person's ability to do a job, but in a time of high unemployment, an employer can demand all sorts of information and desperate job seekers will likely give it away.
Published at 1:10 PM PDT on Apr 20, 2012