Employers should not have access to workers' passwords


Employers should not, under any circumstances, be allowed to ask employees for their Facebook (or any other social media) password. The authority would create some uncomfortable situations that unnecessarily threaten people’s employment and privacy.

Over the past two years, seven states have banned employers from asking employees or job applicants for their social-network passwords. An additional 33 states — including Washington state — are considering such a law.

It’s the proper approach to take. It protects privacy.

Yet, some in Olympia are aiming to add some exceptions to the proposal.

Although their intent might be well-meaning, even a small exception could open the door just enough to leave employees (and applicants) vulnerable to privacy abuses by unscrupulous employers.

Those seeking the exemptions contend that an outright ban would make it easier for illegal activity by employees, such as divulging proprietary or consumer information to outsiders through social networks.

If that matter is that serious, employers would be better served calling in law enforcement than conducting their own investigations. Employees who are plotting to steal corporate secrets probably are sophisticated enough in the use of computers and social media (about the level of an average 16-year-old) they would know enough not to post criminal activity on Facebook. They might, for example (and let’s hope this information won’t give criminals any ideas) use a flash drive to transfer data.

An amendment to make exceptions to the ban was pitched. It was quickly — and wisely — rejected.

Yet, those who don’t want the ban have not conceded.

The proposal was approved by a House committe and now goes to a vote of the enitire House where it could be amended.

The ban on employers being allowed to seek employees passwords has to be absolute.

If not, exemptions could be used to bully employees and snoop into their private lives. It would also be an infringement on the rights of those who have only given the employees, not the bosses, permission to see their Facebook accounts as “friends.”

The legislation should be approved without any exceptions to protect the privacy of Washingtonians.

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