Proposed legislation would prevent employers from demanding Facebook access

Responding to the blatant trampling of consumer’s privacy, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Representative Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and a number of cosponsors in both the House and the Senate have introduced new legislation called The Password Protection Act of 2012 (PPA).

This act would make it “illegal for an employer to compel or coerce access to any online information stored anywhere on the internet if that information is secured against general public access by the user.”

Speaking to the proposed legislation Senator Blumenthal said, “Employers seeking access to passwords or confidential information on social networks, email accounts, or other protected Internet services is an unreasonable and intolerable invasion of privacy. With few exceptions, employers do not have the need or the right to demand access to applicants’ private, password-protected information. This legislation, which I am proud to introduce, ensures that employees and job seekers are free from these invasive and intrusive practices.”

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who joined in introducing the legislation said, “As Facebook and other websites become an increasingly important part of the daily lives of millions of people, we must be vigilant in protecting online privacy. This legislation provides an important safeguard for all Americans.”

Drafted with assistance from major technology companies and legal experts the proposed act is provides welcome first step in providing relief from employers encroachment on employee privacy.

However, as the ACLU points out, there are some omissions and exceptions in the Act as it currently stands that should be remedied:

  • It doesn’t protect students so schools can continue their assault on student privacy
  • It allows states to still require passwords of government workers who work with children under age 13
  • It allows the executive branch to exempt whole classes of workers and require passwords if they come into contact with classified information, including soldiers.
  • “Finally the legislation doesn’t make clear that states have a role to play. Many states have already begun to act, and we believe that it’s critical that federal legislation be a floor, not a ceiling, for employee protections.”

“This bill creates a necessary framework for guarding privacy in the 21st century,” Christopher Calabrese, ACLU legislative counsel, commented. “While the legislation contains some problematic exceptions, it does establish clear, bright boundaries when it comes to what online information our bosses can access. Employers have no business snooping on their employees’ Facebook pages, private email accounts and smart phones. Passing the Password Protection Act would be a major step toward ensuring they can’t. We’ll work with the sponsors to extend these protections to students and eliminate some problematic exceptions.”

This proposed legislation matters to each and every citizen. It draws a line on personal privacy protections and continues the dialog about the need to extend these protections in many other technology related areas – the rights of privacy and control over one’s data. The ownership of your personal information. The limits to how corporations can expose your information. And so on.

Let your voice be heard.

Take 5 minutes and contact your elected officials with a message saying “I support the password protection act”.

To find your representatives and their email addresses click here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

To find your senators and their email addresses click here: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

Linda

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