Illinois today became the second state in the nation to ban employers from asking employees and job applicants for login information to access their social networking accounts.
The law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, also bans such requests during background checks.
“Members of the workforce should not be punished for information their employers don’t legally have the right to have,” Governor Pat Quinn said in a prepared statement after signing a bill into law at the Illinois Institute of Technology. “As use of social media continues to expand, this new law will protect workers and their right to personal privacy.”
Maryland is the only other state to pass a similar law prohibiting employers from demanding social network passwords. Other states are considering legislation to ban the practice, which job seekers say lead them to either comply or be removed as a candidate. Some deactivate their Facebook and other personal accounts during a job search, then reactivate them once the job hunt is over.
“Employers certainly aren’t allowed to ask for the keys to an employee’s home to nose around there, and I believe that same expectation of personal privacy and personal space should be extended to a social networking account,” said Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, who sponsored the bill alongside Rep. La Shawn Ford.
Radogno noted employers are not allowed to ask employees or job applicants about age, sex, race, or sexual orientation—all information that they may discover while trawling a social networking site. “This law will not only protect employees’ reasonable rights to privacy on the Web, but will shield employers from unexpected legal action.”
Employers can still view any publicly available information on sites such as Facebook. One law professor at Wednesday’s signing said 75 percent of HR departments view online profiles before offering an applicant a job and a third have rejected candidates based on what they discovered.
Penalties for trying access data restricted by privacy settings start at $100 to $300 fines and could go much higher.
Image via west.m‘s Flickr photostream, Creative Commons.