New laws protect employees' social media passwords

Florida Bill referred to Senate Committee on Rules

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Employers across the United States have recently asked their employees to turn over their usernames and passwords to their social media accounts. Employers argue that access to employees' personal accounts is needed to protect company information and trade secrets, but others consider the move an invasion of privacy.

State lawmakers started introducing legislation to prevent employers from requesting the information and a dozen states have now blocked employers from asking for their employees social media information.

The privacy of people's Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media pages could soon be protected under Florida law.

In October 2013, the Senate introduced Senate Bill 198 which would protect Florida's employees from having to give their employer the information. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on rules. 

The bill reads:

"Relates to social media privacy; prohibits an employer from requesting or requiring access to a social media account of an employee or prospective employee; prohibits an employer from taking retaliatory personnel action for an employee's failure to provide access to his or her social media account; prohibits an employer from failing or refusing to hire a prospective employee who does not provide access to his or her social media account."

"It shouldn't be their business to intrude, as long as it's not affecting your work," said Paulette Travis.

Jacksonville Attorney Gene Nichols said the legislation stems from a sweeping concern across the nation that employers are getting too deep into people's private lives.

"Giving an employer access to your social media information gives them access to information they normally cannot ask you," said Nichols. "Employers will recognize that once this law is passed, they are not going to be asking or they will be violating the law."

Twelve states banned the practices this week when a law passed in May went into effect. Florida's law to protect employees is still in the works.

If the bill becomes law, employers could face fines for asking for access to their employees social media accounts.

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