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Intersection: Sidewalks & Public Space

Chapter by Melissa Ngo

"The Myth of Security Under Camera Surveillance"


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    Update: U.S. House Members Reintroduce Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA)

    To recap: In the last year, there has been increasing focus on the practice by some employers of requiring job applicants to hand over their passwords or allow access to their private accounts on social-networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace or Google+ in order to gather personal data when the social-networking profiles are closed to the public.

    In April, Maryland became the first state to ban employers from requiring access to the social-media accounts of their employees and job applicants when its General Assembly passed a law concerning the practice. The bill also noted that it did not prevent employers from investigating Web sites or “Web-based accounts” for violations of securities or financial laws or regulatory requirements; nor does the bill prevent businesses from investigating employee misconduct in downloading proprietary data. In August, Illinois passed privacy legislation — HB 3782, now Public Act 097-0875 (pdf) — to bar employers from asking job applicants and employees for passwords to their social-networking sites. In October, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed legislation to protect the privacy of students’ online data at social-networking sites.

    And there have been more moves by states to protect the privacy of individuals’ social-networking passwords. Wired reported in January that there are now six states with such laws: “California’s and Illinois’ laws took force Tuesday, the first day of the year. Michigan’s and New Jersey’s became active last month and Maryland’s, in October. Delaware’s measure became law in July.”

    Now, three members of the U.S. House of Representatives have reintroduced federal legislation concerning social-networking password privacy. (NOTE:  Last year, Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) introduced the Password Protection Act of 2012 (archive pdf). That legislation was not passed in the congressional session that ended in January.) Now, Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Michael Grimm (R-NY) have reintroduced the Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA).

    They say that SNOPA “protects people already employed or enrolled, and those seeking employment or admittance, or those facing disciplinary action, from being required to give passwords or other information used to access their online accounts.”

    SNOPA is the only bipartisan legislation of its kind on the federal level.

    SNOPA applies to websites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, and also protects email and any other personal user generated content. The bill would prohibit current or potential employers or educational institutions from requiring a username, password or other access to online content, or disciplining, discriminating, or denying employment to individuals, or punish them for refusing to volunteer such information. [...]

    SNOPA awaits action in the House Education and Workforce Committee. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN-05), Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY-20) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-01) have all signed on as original co-sponsors.

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