A bill amendment proposed yesterday – if passed – would allow potential employers to demand for your Facebook or other social media passwords during company investigations for employees in Washington state. Odd this amendment’s goal is – as one of the original bill’s sole purposes was to bar employers from even requesting for social media passwords during a job interview. Instead, this amendment decided to take the argument in the opposite direction and actually restrict our right to privacy as paid employees even further. Specifically – the amendment allows an employer to ‘require or demand’ access to a personal account if this current employee – or any prospective employees – has allegations of work-place misconduct, where the allegation would require an official investigation to determine legitimacy.
However even the small amount of literature concerning the investigation is spotty and non-specific at best, which in turn has most people worried about the potential for exploitation in this amendment. The general consensus among the opposed is obviously reasoned, “why on earth should employees be held responsible for what they do on a social networking site”, especially as the national trend is moving away from this type of thing. In fact – seven states this year have banned employers from asking applicants/employees social network passwords, and 33 states are considering similar legislation.
So why is this issue so important, and why now? My main question here is why employers all of a sudden deem it necessary rip open your private, digital life in order to meet hiring requirements. How has technology changed in the past couple years, causing this issue to become relevant and important today? Has there been a ‘low-tech’ (i.e. not an online social) network of this kind to facilitate the breaching of employer-employee privacy in the past?