Bill to protect social network passwords awaits Gov. Quinn’s approval

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It may soon be illegal for employers to gain access to job seekers’ social networking passwords if the governor signs a recently approved measure.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford’s (D-Chicago) bill passed both the Illinois House and Senate May 22.

A spokeswoman in Gov. Pat Quinn’s office said the governor has not received the bill – as the legislature has 30 days after a bill is approved to bring it to the governor – but once he does, he will review it.

Ford, whose district is in the heart of Austin, said employers do not have the right to monitor or know every intimate detail of employees’ private lives.

“Who we are friends with and what organizations we choose to support outside of work has nothing to do with whether we can do the job,” Ford said in a written statement.

“Responding to current changes in our society, this bill takes a reasonable approach to protect our personal privacy.”

The bill, HB 3782, would make it illegal for employers to access any account information for social networking platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Melissa Williams, criminal justice committee chairwoman of the the NAACP’s Westside Branch, said Ford’s bill appeals to both Republicans and Democrats.

“It would really affect people’s ability to get jobs and keep the jobs they have if they were required to give that password,” Williams said. “That would be huge deal.”

Employers would still be allowed to look at the public profiles of current or potential employees. Williams said making it illegal for employers to have passwords is also a good idea for employers because they wouldn’t be held liable for something a worker did or said on a social network.

“It’s good for everybody for this not to be a requirement, especially now when it’s so hard to find a job,” she said. “It doesn’t matter who you are … it’s just so hard to find a job.”

Maryland has a similar law on the books that bars employers from asking a job applicant to disclose a user name or password to a social networking account, according to information provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Maryland’s governor signed the measure May 2.

At least 10 other states, including California, Delaware, and Michigan, among others, are working to pass a version of the law.

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