Employers need to stay out

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Employers need to stay out

WC Editorial Board

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California citizens applying to both jobs and schools can now worry a little less about their social media accounts, thanks to a new bill prohibiting employers and universities from requesting usernames and passwords.

The Golden State’s legislature became the third to enact such a policy Thursday, preceded only by Maryland and our beloved state, Illinois.

The main rationale behind these laws, aside from preventing an apparent invasion of privacy, is to avoid discrimination based on age, race, sex or sexual orientation — all information easily gathered from one glance at a Facebook page.

The steps taken by Maryland, Illinois, and now California, are definitely in the right direction. Even though prospective employers can already find out anything about anyone through a quick Google search, they absolutely should not demand even easier access to information.

And, clearly, the information employers collect by using employees’ passwords and usernames should not be used to make hiring decisions, especially in this tight job market. Under the First Amendment, U.S. citizens have the right to express themselves without fear of repercussions, and they should definitely be able to do so if they’ve established strict privacy settings.

In other words, employees requiring applicants to hand over social media account information are essentially infringing on the rights of citizens who, in that case, have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

While these laws should begin to stop the practice, there is more work to be done.

Only three states have established these policies, which means employers can legally demand usernames and passwords in the majority of the country. Obviously, that’ll have a negative impact on most of the country’s employees.

Still, Illinois and Maryland aren’t off the hook, either.

Neither of their laws explicitly include universities and colleges, meaning university officials can do the same thing to prospective and current students. If Illinois and Maryland want to offer the most comprehensive password protection, institutions of higher education have to be incorporated.

It should be noted, however, that these laws do not include anything on social media sites that is public. Employers can and will look at anything public before selecting a candidate to hire. It’s not fair, but it is completely legal.

So, what does this mean? Go ahead and make the picture of you puking into a Keystone box your profile picture, but certainly think about it first, even if your profile is private.

 

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