Today, the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee approved a pair of bills sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli and Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald that would bar employers and colleges from requiring current or prospective employees or students to turn over their login information for social networking websites as a condition of employment or acceptance.

"In this job market, especially, employers clearly have the upper hand," says Burzichelli. "Demanding this information is akin to coercion when it might mean the difference between landing a job and not being able to put food on the table for your family. This is a huge invasion of privacy that takes 'Big Brother' to a whole new level.  It's really no different than asking someone to turn over a key to their house."

The first bill would prohibit an employer from requiring a current or prospective employee to provide or disclose any user name, password, or other means for accessing a personal account or service through an electronic communications device. Employers would also be prohibited from asking a current or prospective employee if they have an account or profile on a social networking website.

The second measure would bar a public or private institution of higher education in New Jersey from requiring a student or applicant to provide or disclose any user name, password or other means for accessing a personal account or service through an electronic communications device.

"This practice is highly invasive and also begs the question of where do you draw the line," says Greenwald. "If an employer or college claims they're trying to gain a perspective on the applicant's life, what's to stop them from trying to require the login information for a spouse or parent? With the economy still struggling to gain traction, most people don't have the luxury of standing up to a prospective employer and denying this type of request."