Thursday, April 12, 2012

Maryland Legislation Would Bar Employers from Requesting Employees’ or Applicants’ Social Media Account Passwords

This posting was written by Thomas A. Long, Editor of CCH Privacy Law in Marketing.

Maryland employers would be prohibited from asking employees or applicants to hand over the passwords for their Facebook accounts or other personal social media accounts, if a bill that has passed both houses of the Maryland legislature (Senate Bill 433 and House Bill 964) is signed by the governor. The two bills were reconciled and passed on April 6, 2012. If the law is approved, Maryland would be the first state to prohibit this practice.

The proposed law provides that employers may not take, or threaten to take, disciplinary actions against an employee for refusing to disclose social media account password and related information. Employers also may not refuse to hire an applicant as a result of the applicant’s refusal to disclose that information.

The bill also contains language prohibiting employees from uploading unauthorized employer proprietary information or financial data to their personal websites or other Internet sites. Employers would be allowed to conduct investigations for the purpose of ensuring compliance with applicable securities or financial laws or regulations, based on the receipt of information about the use of a personal website by an employee for business purposes or the uploading of employer proprietary information.

The proposed law would take effect on October 1, 2012.

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