from the digital-homes dept
Just a few weeks back we relayed the news that Washington State was seeking to codify into law an employer's right to ask for the social media passwords of their employees. I continue to be amazed both at why such a law was considered in the first place, as well as why there hasn't been more backlash against it. That said, I imagine the answer to the latter has something to do with the idea that employees and prospective employees could deny that request, so perhaps some people think that there's little to no impact overall. This, on its face, is obviously silly. Were there going to be no impact to denying the request, employers would never make it in the first place. You have to imagine that an employee, and to a larger extent an applicant, is going to face enormous pressure to give the key to their personal sites away, whether that pressure is real or imagined.
However, since the bill hasn't been challenged in the court of public opinion, others are now beginning to follow suit. Such is the case in Illinois, where the state House passed a bill this week, sponsored by Jim Durkin, that gives employers there the same rights. And, of course, it's all done in the name of protecting the workplace.
The Illinois House passed a bill today that would allow employers to request access to employees' personal web accounts used for business purposes, like Facebook and other social networking sites. As if people aren't paranoid enough already. To be clear, the bill does not mandate that employees supply the information, and no one could be fired or penalized for noncompliance. The idea is to allow employers the opportunity to investigate employee misconduct, protect trade secrets, and prevent workplace violence by monitoring online activities. Even without it being mandatory to share your login and password, you could imagine a boss putting a subordinate under some uncomfortable pressure.A challenge to everyone, if I may. If you were able to somehow catalog and characterize every single instance of employee misconduct, trade secret revealing, and workplace violence, exactly what percentage of them would you guess could have been prevented by proactive investigation of social media? Further, what percentage of such cases are such that the key evidence that would conclude any investigation into them would be only made available with a social media password? These are the kinds of answers with which I would expect proponents of such laws to be beating us over the head, yet you never seem to see any data in the reports. It all essentially comes down to, "We need to give employers the right to ask for social media passwords, because violence, scary internet, and children."
Do you know why we highlight when stupid criminals spurt their stupid juices all over the internet? Because they're the vast exception, not the rule. Creating the kind of animosity between employers and employees such as this bill will do is an awful over-reaction to those stories.