Who Will Protect Your Passwords From Your Boss?


A few weeks back, The Associated Press reported some more sucky news about the job market: Employers increasingly want passwords to social networking sites, and will demand that info from prospective employees on job apps.

Creeped out because H.R. might soon click through your private spring break photos or old IMs with friends? Well, you’re certainly not the only one. A lot of people have decried this practice as an invasion of privacy and violation of civil rights.

So what’s being done about it?

Wired reported that the California Assembly just passed legislation “that would forbid employers or prospective employers from demanding access to employees’ personal, private online lives, such as their Facebook accounts.”

There’s similar legislation in the works in Michigan, Minnesota, and Illinois.

The mag notes that the California developments took place one day after a measure — the Password Protection Act of 2012 — was proposed in Congress.

Of course, the U.S. is a long way away from any type of nationwide policy on the issue. And, as the American Civil Liberties Union points out, there are problems with the propsal.

From the ACLU:

“Because the legislation has a number of exceptions and limitations, it doesn’t provide the full level of protection we believe is necessary. The most glaring omission is the lack of coverage for students. This ACLU case in Minnesota highlights how far school administrators will go to force students to divulge social network passwords. Student athletes are so frequently coerced into allowing access to their personal pages that there are at least three different companies marketing this service. Another bill filed last week by Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA) does a better job in this regard, covering both employers and students.”

If you do run into this situation, here are some things you should know…


If you go to public school, you can ask to speak to a parent or lawyer before answering any questions. Because you have privacy rights, you have legal protections against adverse consequences. So, your coach can’t kick you off a team just for asking to talk to an attorney.


Yeah, the laws on this don’t really protect you. You can tell your current or would-be boss that Facebook and other social networking sites’ terms of service bar you from sharing your login info with a third party. But if you refuse and don’t get hired or you get fired, you don’t have much legal recourse.