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New Law Keeps Illinois Employers Out Of Employees Facebook Accounts

By aaroncynic in News on Aug 2, 2012 1:45PM

Yesterday Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill making it illegal for an employer to ask for or demand passwords to an employee's Facebook or other social media accounts. The law amends the Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act, making it “unlawful for an employer to request a password or other account information in order to access an employee's or prospective employee's social networking website.” Like anyone else using the internet, employers are still free to peruse an employee's postings not restricted by privacy settings and allowed to set their own workplace social networking policies.

Signing the bill at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Quin said “Privacy is a fundamental right. I believe that, and I think we need to fight for that.” Students at the school complained of instances where they lost out on jobs because of social media profiles, or stated they temporarily deactivated their accounts when job hunting, the Sun-Times reports. Pegah Shabehpour, a student at IIT, told the Huffington Post “Especially in times like this when there are not a lot of jobs, that puts a lot of pressure on you. It's hard to resist.”

Illinois is the second state to enact such a law. In April, the legislature in Maryland passed a similar bill after the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services asked an employee for his Facebook password during a reinstatement interview after a leave of absence. Legislation to keep employers out of their employees' social media accounts is also working its way through California, Minnesota, Michigan and Massachusetts.

In a press release, bill sponsor Rep. La Shawn Ford said:

“Social networking accounts are places where we document the personal and private aspects of our lives, and employers have realized they can get answers to questions they are already prohibited from asking by gaining unfettered access to our accounts.”

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, who co-sponsored the bill, pointed out employers would be able to glean information from applicants or employees on things like age, race, or sexual orientation from a social media profile. “Employers certainly aren’t allowed to ask for the keys to an employee's home to nose around there, and I believe that same expectation of personal privacy and personal space should be extended to a social networking account,” Radogno added.