Perlmutter Re-Introduces Password Protection Act

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Washington, DC, May 13, 2015 | comments

More and more employers want to access social media accounts with your password for job screening purposes.  Not so fast, says Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) who re-introduced H.R. 2277, the Password Protection Act of 2015 to prevent employers from requiring current and prospective employees to hand over their personal passwords as a condition of either keeping or getting a new job.

In recent years there have been news stories highlighting a disturbing increase in the number of employers asking prospective employees to hand over usernames and passwords to their personal accounts on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Some job applicants are even being asked during interviews to log into these websites allowing interviewers to browse applicants’ profile, acquaintances, and other information.  Others potential employees are being asked as a condition of new or continued employment to provide passwords on job applications or to “friend” the employer so the employer can view applicants’ private information.

“No one should have to give up their personal passwords in order to secure or keep a job,” said Rep. Perlmutter. “Requiring access to prospective or current employees’ password-protected accounts as a condition of employment is an unreasonable violation of an employee’s privacy.  The federal government needs to protect the privacy of employees.” 

The bipartisan legislation would end this abuse by prohibiting employers from forcing employees into releasing their private online user information stored on the internet. In doing so, the Act builds upon existing law by focusing on where an employee’s information is shared rather than how it is stored. This protects the privacy rights of employees but also clearly preserves employers’ rights to control access to their own company hardware and software.

"People have an expectation of privacy when accessing their social media accounts.  They have an expectation that their right to free speech and religion will be respected when they use social media outlets,” continued Perlmutter.  “Forcing employees to turn over their personal information to employers opens the door for employers to act as imposters and assume the identity of an employee and continually access, monitor and even manipulate an employee's personal social activities and opinions.”

The Password Protection Act amends the federal criminal code subjecting an employer to fines who knowingly and intentionally: (1) compels or coerces any person to provide the employer with a password or similar information to access a protected computer not owned by such employer; or (2) discharges, disciplines, discriminates, or threatens to take such actions, against any person who fails to authorize access to such computer, has filed a complaint or instituted a proceeding regarding such action, or testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding.

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