Maryland Is First State to Ban Employers From Seeking Facebook Passwords

Posted by Edward Sharkey on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 20:03

Effective October 1, 2012, a new law will make it illegal for Maryland businesses to require employees or applicants to turn over passwords to their social media accounts.

There are good reasons for the law. There also are good reasons for exceptions. One exception in the statute is for companies that believe a personal account was used for business purposes and need to ensure compliance with securities or financial laws.

There is no exception, however, based upon the sensitive nature of the job at stake. For example, a school is not allowed to look at the Facebook page of an applicant who will have control of young children.

Privacy advocates hail the law as great for business. They say being restricted from accessing the information means businesses cannot be liable for it. That is fine as far as it goes, but freedom from liability is not the pinnacle of business success. Good businesses do care about the welfare of their clients.

The tension between privacy and security is one of the great debates of our time. This law definitely favors privacy. We may be revisiting the issue in the future after a teacher with a shady Facebook page (open to "friends" but not his employer) harms a child at school.

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