The State of Maryland could become the first State to pass a law prohibiting employers to request employees to disclose their passwords allowing access to a personal electronic account. That would cover email accounts, but also social networking accounts. The bill now awaits the Governor’s signature.
Employers will be prohibited from taking, or threatening to take disciplinary actions, if the employee refuses to disclose her passwords. Employers will also be prohibited from refusing to hire an applicant because of his refusal to disclose his passwords.
In 2010, Robert Collins, a Maryland corrections officer was asked to provide the Maryland Division of Corrections (DOC) his Facebook login information during a recertification interview. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland sent a letter in January 2011 to DOC Secretary Gary Maynard. Secretary Maynard answered in February 2011 and ordered the practice be suspended for 45 days to allow further study of the issue. The DOC then revised its policy: candidates would have to sign a form stating that they understand that providing their passwords is voluntary.
A similar bill is still being discussed in Illinois. Is a federal law around the corner? Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) plans to introduce a bill which would prevent employers to ask applicants to provide their social media passwords as part of the hiring process.