The question of whether utilities may demand that employees and job applicants turn over their social media passwords has been definitively answered, at least in Maryland. Thanks to the efforts of the ACLU, Facebook and my esteemed colleague and respected social media attorney, Bradley Shear, the Maryland legislature passed a law prohibiting employers from requiring employees or applicants to disclose user names or passwords to personal Internet sites as a condition of employment.
As Shear explains, the legislation not only protects employees’ privacy rights, but it also spares companies of the obligation to affirmatively monitor and act on information gleaned from employees’ personal profiles.
In addition, the legislation aligns with the terms of service of social media sites like Facebook and others. Most of these sites prohibit users from sharing their passwords with other parties – and thus, a company demand for a password would force users to violate their contractual obligation to social media services. This in turn could even jeopardize utilities’ use of social media sites which presumably can ban a user that forces other users to violate terms of service. Which is yet another reason not to demand employees’ social media passwords, even if there isn’t yet a law prohibiting the practice.