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New federal bill would protect employee social media use

Employers would be unable to “compel or coerce” employees into providing access to their social media accounts under proposed federal legislation.

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., co-sponsored the Password Protection Act of 2012, H.R. 5684, which would apply to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

“Employees have a legitimate expectation of privacy when using Facebook or Twitter,” Welch said in a statement. “This legislation will prevent fishing expeditions into employees’ private lives. While an employer may have a valid concern about the business impact of an employee’s online activity, demanding passwords and unfettered access to private accounts is an over-the-top solution.”

After news reports that employers were requiring prospective and current employees to provide access to their usernames and passwords for social media sites, several states introduced similar bills.

States such as California, Illinois and Michigan are considering legislation, while Maryland became the first state to pass a law banning employers from asking employees or prospective employees for passwords to their private social media accounts.

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