Law Blocks Employers From Requesting Facebook Data

Dennis Faas's picture

Michigan has joined several other US states in passing legislation that prevents employers and school officials from asking people for their social networking login data. Breaking this new law could bring a three-month jail term or a $1,000 fine.

On Friday, December 28, 2012, Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed the new law, House bill 5523, into effect.

In part, the law says "potential employees and students should be judged on their skills and abilities, not private online activity," and blocks any employer from requesting login or password data for social networks like Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace.

The law also specifies that violators could face up to 93 days in jail and a fine of $1,000. (Source:

Employers, Administrators Can No Longer Request Login Data

Michigan joins Maryland, Delaware, Illinois, and California as states with legislation designed to protect the privacy of social networking users. (Source:

The problem came to light during March, 2012, when an Associated Press report focused on employers' practice of asking prospective employees for their Facebook login data.

Their goal: to investigate whether a job applicant's personal life meshed with the employer's concept of an ideal employee.

Reports have also indicated that some school administrators were also asking for social network passwords to perform background checks on prospective students.

No More Legal Access to Personal Messages, Chats

As most social networks are now set up, providing an employer with login information would give them access to wall posts, photographs, personal messages, and online chats.

In effect, this would be like giving your prospective boss access to your email account or the postal mail delivered to your door each day.

"It's akin to requiring someone's house keys," noted Orin Kerr, a law professor and former federal prosecutor. Kerr calls the policy "an egregious privacy violation." (Source:

There was a time when requests for passwords were unnecessary. For years after Facebook's launch, many of its members failed to enable privacy measures designed to limit who could view their profile. Virtually anyone with a computer could view a job candidate's personal photographs and wall posts.

Only in recent years have many Facebook members 'locked down' their accounts, preventing strangers from viewing wall posts, photographs, and other personal content until they receive the proper password.

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