Frankly, when there are no laws prohibiting institutions from requiring this information, it becomes a common practice. Social media sites have become a widespread communications tool – both personally and professionally – all across the world. It is erroneous to just say that if you don’t want your information accessed that you shouldn’t put it online. That ignores the basic fact of how widespread these websites and forums have become. We cannot go backward to a time before the internet existed – we can only go forward, and a legal framework should be in place to offer basic protections and rights. In addition, sites such as Facebook have privacy settings built in, and it is not the business of employers or educators to demand an individual relinquish these protections.
That is why we introduced SNOPA, which prohibits current or potential employers from requiring a username, password or other access to online content. The bill does not permit employers to demand such account information to discipline, discriminate or deny employment to individuals, nor punish them for refusing to volunteer the information. It also applies these same restrictions to schools, colleges and universities. Unlike similar legislation which has also been introduced, our bill covers employers, schools and universities. The issue has been just as prevalent in the education sector, and is even more troubling because children and young adults are often unable to properly defend their own rights to the same extent as adults are able. We applaud our colleagues for identifying this issue as a problem, and look forward to working with them going forward. We also thank our colleagues who have signed on to our legislation – Reps. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) and Chelie Pingree (D-Me.), and encourage other members, from both sides of the aisle, to join our efforts.
Several states, including New York, Illinois, and Maryland have begun to address this issue, but we need a federal statute to protect all Americans across the country. We must draw the line somewhere and define what is private. No one would feel comfortable going to a public place and giving out their username and passwords to total strangers. They should not be required to do so at work, at school, or while trying to obtain work or an education. This is a matter of personal privacy and makes sense in our digital world.