Maryland: Employers Cannot Ask for Facebook Passwords

Maryland is the first state to have both houses pass a bill that prohibits employers from requesting access to employees' or potential employees' private social media accounts.  The bills, SB 433 and HB 964, are a response to the uproar caused by employers asking job applicants for the usersnames and/or passwords to their private Facebook and other social media accounts.  Maryland is the first state to have a such legsilation pass both houses, but state legislators in California, Illinois and Michigan are also acting on the issue.  Governor O'Malley has not yet signed the bill, which would, if signed, go into effect on October 1, 2012.

The bill that passed both houses was notably distinguishable from similar SB 434 and HB 746, which applied to postsecondary institutions requesting access to students' accounts.  The state of Maryland's second largest postsecondary institution, Townson University, added to the account-access controversy after a coach wanted to ban his players from using social media platforms.  The coach did this after a star player posted a message that was racially offensive.  The coach believed his players needed proper training before using such social media tools.  The legislation that passed, however, makes no restrictions on postsecondary institutions' control over students' accounts--just employers' ability to access accounts.

Maryland has also reduced the scope of their bill to just apply to private social media accounts.  If a business, for example, were to have a company Twitter account, the company could still request to have the login and password for that official account were it to be operated by an employee.