This morning I found a press release from FindLaw.com that began with this statement:
“Americans overwhelmingly oppose allowing their bosses to obtain their social media passwords.”
They came to this conclusion after conducting a demographically balanced survey of 1,000 American adults.
83% of those surveyed said employers should not be allowed to obtain passwords to personal social media accounts, such as Facebook and YouTube.
7% said it was okay.
10% said they were unsure.
At this point I thought, wow, FindLaw actually needed a survey to figure this out? Why in the world would anyone even talk about the idea of giving personal passwords to an employer? Then I kept reading:
A scan of pending and newly enacted legislation shows at least ten states have passed laws that prevent employers from requesting passwords to personal Internet accounts in order to get or keep a job, according to Westlaw and the National Association of State Legislatures. Legislation has been introduced or is pending in at least twenty-six additional states. Similar legislation was introduced in Congress earlier this year but failed to pass.
Really? There are actual laws stopping employers from asking.? We had to make LAWS to prevent this? What happened to common sense?
The fact that ten states have laws about this topic must mean that employers are threatening to fire people if they don’t give up their personal passwords.
According to the FindLaw survey, 3% of Americans have been asked to do just that. That’s not a big percentage but I’m still amazed that 3 out of a random group of 1,000 people have faced this issue.
Some employers say they need personal passwords to protect proprietary information or trade secrets. They also worry about complying with those federal finance rules that forbidden you from making certain disclosures in public. They also worry about being legally liable for something an employee says on social media.
Let’s be clear here. We’re not talking about the passwords to business accounts an employee set up or monitors. We’re talking about the employee’s personal Twitter or Facebook account. How can anyone think that’s okay?
Stephanie Rahlfs, an attorney-editor at FindLaw.com says,
“Many people are sensitive that information regarding their personal lives should not be available to their employers. In addition, if an employer, while viewing an employee’s social media page, were to discover information regarding an employee’s protected characteristics, such as religious preferences or confidential medical information, it could open the door for potential legal issues.”
There is one grey area – that’s freelancer who post as themselves on behalf of a brand. For example, if my Twitter was MarketingPilgrim Cyn and all of my tweets were about online marketing. I build up the account to 12,000 followers! Then, one day, I run off (just hypothetical here, Andy) and take all of those followers with me to my new site. Is that right?
We wrote about this sort of thing a few years ago when PhoneDog media sued over ownership of a personal Twitter account.
Getting back to the original survey, I’ve got to ask – is there anyone here who thinks employers have a right to personal passwords? Speak up, I’d like to hear your side of the story.