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Facebook Privacy Protection Bills Pass Senate Committee [AUDIO]

We’ve been telling you about the growing trend of employers demanding Facebook passwords from potential employees.

The Facebook Home Page
Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

Some are also asking for access to all social media sites of which a job-seeker is a member. Many colleges and universities have starting do it too. This has certainly gotten the attention of New Jersey lawmakers who are advancing bills to make it illegal.

State Senate President Steve Sweeney is one of the measure’s sponsors. He says, “People deserve privacy. I mean, I understand people want to know who they’re hiring, but to go far back and to dig into your personal business, they’re not entitled to that……Sometimes a little bit of privacy is nice for people.”

“Social networking users have the right and freedom to use their accounts to share private messages with family and friends, express their religions and sexual preferences, and post images and videos with family and friends,” says State Senator Kevin O’Toole, another sponsor. “By no means should an employer be able to forcibly access such a broad scope of personal information against an applicant’s will. There are plenty of other steps in a job application process for employers to gain a profound understanding of an applicant’s experience, fitness and personality.”

“In some job application circumstances employers are asking potential employees for password information so that the employer can go deeper into social network sites that the potential employee may be on,” explains Assembly sponsor John Burzichelli. “My bill says it would not be proper for the employer to ask the potential employee for that personal information as part of the application process and would not allow an employer to do that retroactively and call you into the office and say, ‘By the way if you’re participating in social media we want your password to your sites because we want to see who you’re talking to and who you’re affiliating yourself with.’”

Burzichelli acknowledges that anything already in the public domain is fair game for an employer to consider, but demanding passwords to social media sites is just wrong. He says the idea behind his bill, “Is to level the playing field so a person interviewing for a job is being evaluated on their credentials and their ability to do the job and their private lives, short of criminal convictions should be their business and not anyone else’s business.”

In some cases it has been reported that applicants have been asked to surrender their site usernames as well during the application process. In other cases, employers would request an applicant log-in during the interview process.

“It’s a huge problem,” says Lewis Maltby with National Workrights Institute in Princeton. “People say all sorts of things on their Facebook page that they don’t want the whole world to see, and employers want to get their hands on every piece of information they can about applicants.”

There are exemptions in the legislation for law enforcement and any other job that already requires deep background checks.

Burzichelli explains, “We have a companion bill that will directly address college admissions and a college student’s right to privacy by saying a student wouldn’t have to give that information and the same goes if a student already enrolled is asked to do so.”

The law has to catch up with privacy issues in the Internet world according to Burzichelli.

The bills have passed the full Assembly and now await a vote in the full State Senate.

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