Illinois Joins Maryland In Enacting Law Protecting Social Media Passwords

Eric Paltell
Eric Paltell

By Eric Paltell
On August 1, 2012, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation (H.B. 3782) barring employers from requiring employees and job applicants to disclose user names and passwords linked to social networking websites. The new law means that Maryland and Illinois now have more in common than just being two states with the 5th highest tax burden in the United States – they are also the only two states to enact legislation prohibiting such actions by employers.

The new law makes it illegal for employers to demand that employees or applicants provide passwords or other account related information so that the employer can access the account. It also makes it illegal for an employer to demand that the employee or applicant show the employer his or her account or profile.

Fortunately, the law does have some “carve-outs” that allow employers to maintain workplace electronic communications policies and to monitor employee computer and email usage on the employer’s server. The law also does not prohibit an employer from obtaining information about the employee that is already in the “public domain” (such as those embarrassing pictures from the Christmas party that show up when you do a Google search….)

Although Maryland and Illinois currently stand alone with this type of legislation, we suspect that will not be the case for long. At least 10 other states have considered similar bills, and, given the fact that Facebook has been a vocal proponent of such laws, it’s just a matter of time until more states jump on the bandwagon.

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