Social media privacy bill approved

InternetSocial1The full Senate has given unanimous approval to a bill prohibiting employers from requesting or requiring current or prospective employees to give them access to their personal social media accounts.  Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. John Trebilcock, R-Broken Arrow, are the authors of House Bill 2372.  The Senate approved the bill on Wednesday with a vote of 41 to 0.

Loveless said the bill addresses a fundamental personal privacy issue that has arisen as a result of companies requiring current or potential employees to hand over passwords for an individual’s personal social media accounts, like Facebook and Twitter.  Some companies require employees or job applicants to log on and let company officials view their accounts.

As far as I am concerned, that’s like an employer telling you if you want to work here or stay employed here, you have to let us go through your personal mail and the contents of your home,” Loveless said.  “That would be a huge breech of your personal privacy. This bill addresses privacy concerns about an individual’s private social media accounts.”

InternetSocial2The bill bans employers from forcing employees or applicants to give them passwords to personal social media accounts, or requiring a person to open such accounts for company officials to view.  It also makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against individuals who don’t turn over passwords or allow employers to view their accounts.  The bill would not prevent employers from conducting an investigation into the transfer of proprietary or confidential information or financial data through personal online social media or other sources.

“We worked with business groups and business owners on this legislation, and I believe we struck a good balance between the needs of the employer and those of the employees,” Loveless said.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in the past two years, 16 states have approved legislation dealing with the privacy of social media accounts.  In 2014, legislation has been introduced or is pending in 28 states and has been signed into law in Wisconsin.

Trebilcock said employees and potential hires should have a basic right to privacy.

“Employers have unprecedented opportunities to gain access to people’s private online lives now,” Trebilcock said. “This bill offers employees and potential hires basic legal protections over their private online social media accounts.”

The measure now returns to the House for a final look.  If accepted in its current form, the measure will next go to the governor for consideration.