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Bill Proposed to Ban Employers, Schools from Asking for Facebook Passwords

It might soon be illegal for employers or schools to ask for passwords to social networks like Facebook and Twitter, now that a group of lawmakers proposed a bill to prevent it.

The proposal comes after many have reported firms requiring passwords as a condition of employment. Some schools have also been reported for making it a requirement for enrollment.

It is a reintroduction of a bill that was proposed last year, and is aimed at protecting the privacy of social media users.

"The lack of clarity in the law puts individuals in a position where they either have to give up vital, private information, or risk losing their job, potential job, or enrollment in school and involvement in the school's sports programs," Representative Eliot Engel, one of the bill's sponsors, said.

"Frankly, when there are no laws prohibiting institutions from requiring this information, it becomes a common practice."

Called the Social Networking Online Protection Act, it would ensure those seeking employment or those already employed would not be required to reveal their passwords to employers. The same goes for those applying or already enrolled in school.

Similar bills have already been enacted in six states, including: California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan and New Jersey. The lawmakers argue that a federal bill is needed.

"Asking for someone's password is like asking for a key to their home," Rep. Jan Schakowsky said.

"Privacy is a basic right that all Americans share, and one that we should act to protect; this legislation sets boundaries," she said. "No one seeking an educational or job opportunity should have to worry that their personal password information will be required as a condition of enrollment or employment."

If the bill is passed, Bradley Shear, an attorney involved in the legislation, said it would protect businesses as well as educational institutions.

“It protects the personal privacy of students, student applicants, job applicants and employees,” Shear said. “It also provides a legal liability shield for employers, businesses and schools. This is a comprehensive and positive piece of legislation.”



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