NJ Assembly Committee To Consider Bills Protecting Social Media Passwords

Assemblyman John Burzichelli

TRENTON – The Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing tomorrow on a pair of bills sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli that would prevent employers and institutions of higher education from requiring people to disclose their social media user names and passwords.

While employers and colleges are increasingly likely to use publicly available information from Facebook and other online social media networks when screening applicants, asking for someone’s password to gain access to non-public information seems to be a relatively new phenomenon.

There is no indication how many employers have actually asked for social media network login information. The issue gained national attention in March after a Maryland corrections officer approached the state American Civil Liberties Union about being required to provide his Facebook password to his employer during a recertification interview.

“This is a huge invasion of privacy. It’s really no different than asking someone to turn over a key to their house,” said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem) earlier this year when the issue came to light. “In this job market, especially, employers clearly have the upper hand. Demanding this information is akin to coercion when it might mean the difference between landing a job and not being able to put food on the table for your family.”

This month, Maryland became the first state to enact a law that prevents employers from asking for passwords. A number of other states are considering similar legislation. Last month, Reps. Eliot Engle (D-N.Y.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) introduced the Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA) to prevent employers and schools from asking for social networking account information and passwords.

The Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee will also consider a bill that would ban unsolicited text messaging ads tomorrow.

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