In the past five years, I have had some pretty terrible haircuts. All of them have been documented on Facebook. All of them would get me fired from my current job. Now think about all the pictures of me and my imbecilic friends playing air cello, air broom and air Canadian Crest. One glance: Fired.
Imagine you’ve made it into the second round of interviews at a prospective employer, and they ask for your Facebook password in order to have a look around. (Yes, this actually happens.) Unless you’ve been poised for a career in politics (or you are a total lame-o), you’re probably not too pumped on what they are about to see. And from a legal perspective, it sure sounds like an intrusive proposition.
In some states, such conduct would be illegal. California is the latest state to enact a law that prevents employers from requesting access to an employee’s or a prospective employee’s social media account. Already, Delaware, Maryland, and Illinois have enacted similar legislation, and in 2012 alone 14 states have considered laws that would restrict employers from requesting access to social networking usernames and passwords of applicants, students, or employees.
At first glance, this seems like no-brainer legislation. The thought for most social media users, as evidenced by uproars over Facebook’s various privacy changes, is that “It’s my account, meant for a specific audience, and I should have the ability to limit who sees it.” And at the state level, this legislation has been met with almost no opposition. Of all the final votes (after amendments), nearly all of these bills passed unanimously. Yet at the federal level, no such social media privacy law exists.