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Proposed Bills Prevent Employers from Requiring Access to Private Accounts

In recent years it has become more common for employers to require job applicants and current employees to provide their passwords for social networking sites so their accounts can be screened. The newly proposed Password Protection Act, however, aims to put a stop to this practice as a condition of employment.

The Password Protection Act was introduced in the Senate and has an identical companion bill in the House. The bills prohibit an employer from forcing employees or job seekers to provide access to their private accounts for employment, which includes social networking sites, photo sharing sites, private email accounts and smartphones. Under the Password Protection Act employers would not be allowed to require job seekers or current employees to login to their private accounts and profiles or provide their passwords as a means of allowing their employer to screen their private account information. Employers would still be able to screen public information on an applicant’s or employee’s social networking profile, but they would not be allowed to force the applicant or employee to provide access to their account to view private information as a condition of employment.

One state today, Maryland, already prohibits this practice, but the Password Protection Act aims to ban this across the United States. Businesses in violation of this act, should it pass in to law, would face fines for not complying with the regulation. One criticism of the bill is that it only extends this protection to employees and job applicants, but students are often asked or required to provide passwords to private accounts as well.

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