Pa. House gets bill to protect social media privacy

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A bill to prohibit employers from seeking the Facebook usernames and passwords of workers and job seekers is headed to the state House of Representatives.

House Bill 1130, also known as the Social Media Privacy Protection Act, was approved 25-0 by the House Labor and Industry Committee on Tuesday.

Under the legislation, employers could not request or require any employee or prospective employee to disclose account information for any social media or Internet service.

Employers could not discharge, discipline, or threaten an employee – and could not refuse to hire a prospective employee – who refuses to give up their log-in information.

Rep. Jesse White (D-Allegheny/Beaver/Washington) said his bill is similar to legislation enacted last year in Maryland, the first state to protect social media privacy in the workplace.

White said employers should not be able to take advantage of a tough job market by forcing employees or prospective employees to give away their personal information.

“It's the equivalent of an employer saying 'OK, I like everything I'm hearing, but let's go back to your house real quick and I'm going to go through your underwear drawer for about an hour, and then I'll make a decision.' It's just inappropriate,” he said.

White said his bill does not restrict an employer's right to maintain workplace policies or monitor an employee's use of electronic communications devices, the Internet, social media or email accounts while at work.

Enforcement would not be criminal, White said. Instead, non-compliant employers would face a civil penalty of up to $5,000.

White said the House is currently working on amendments to allow for special circumstances in which an employer would need to access social media accounts, including criminal investigations.

The bill now goes to the House for debate. White said there is no guarantee it will be brought to a vote, so he urged anyone who agrees with his measure to call their state representative to voice their support.

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