State police raise issue with proposal to bar employers from viewing job applicants' social media
CONCORD - Proposals to limit the ability of prospective employers to check up on job applicants demanding access to social media sites may need to be reworked after hearings before a House committee Tuesday.
The House Committee on Labor Industrial and Rehabilitative Services heard two similar proposals that would bar employers from asking applicants for passwords in order to go exploring in their accounts on Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites.
State Rep Peter Sullivan, D-Manchester, a sponsor of the bills, said they were filed because of the fear that employers will start demanding the right to see what possible new hires have been doing with their lives since the day they signed up for an account.
"This is designed to protect the fundamental privacy of workers," Sullivan said. " We as a society, especially here in New Hampshire, take our right to privacy seriously, you should not have right to to compromise that privacy by having people turn over their social media passwords."
Another sponsor, Rep. Katherine Rogers, who compared the social media of today to the custom of sending letters in previous centuries, noted that she might not have been offered a job as county manager for Dukes County, Massachusetts, had she been forced to give up social media passwords early in the process.
"If they had know before that I was overweight, older, and had a medical condition, would they have offered me the job,?" Rogers said.
The Concord lawmaker turned down the job with the county that encompasses Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands.
But committee members had a lot of questions about scenarios, ranging from the ability of employers to get the information anyway through monitoring of computers it owns, to the effect on hiring teachers or public safety officers, positions in which potential problems might be caught through the type of background check that unfettered Facebook fact-finding might reveal.
Lt. John Marasco, head of recruiting for the New Hampshire State Police, said the agency opposes the limits on social media access.
"It is important to go to public media; it should be explored because it can give you information about a candidate that should not be wearing a state police uniform," Marasco said. "People do not act the same way when they anonymous behind a keyboard and a screen as when they are before you for an oral (hiring) board or going through a screening process."
Committee members also worried that the restriction might place businesses that hire people to work with sensitive financial information at risk. Committee members also noted that employers in the financial services industry often want to the ability to track computer use among employees. Barry Glenning, director the state Bureau of Securities Regulation, which oversees securities trading, said regulators had an issue with the idea because of potential conflicts with laws intended to protect the integrity of financial market transactions.
"Everything must be open to inspection," Glenning said. A number of committee members asked witnesses in support of the legislation if they knew of any actual instances in which persons being hired had been asked to supply social media passwords.
Only one had specific examples, Devon Chafee, executive director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, cited instances of a public safety officer in Maryland; hiring procedures in the city of of Bozeman, Mont., and press accounts of a statistician from New York who was asked for social media information.
Other than the head of hiring for the state police, neither witnesses nor committee members were aware of any instance in New Hampshire where an employer demanded a social network password as part of the hiring process.
Diana Lacey, of a public employee union, warned the committee that if employers adopt the practice in the future, gaining access to one potential hire's Facebook account would give them access to private messages which would mean free reign to rummage through the private lives of people they've never even heard of.
"It is literally a treasure trove into hundreds of people's lives," she said.
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James Parker said:
The way it reads, employers would only be checking on applicants who demand access to social media. That would be quite pointless. I think the author means employers who demand access to applicants social media accounts. My thoughts: Social media should be off limits, period. With or without a password.Oh, and Mr. Smith, that's "rein", not "reign". As in giving a horse "free rein", not giving a monarch "free reign".
February 13, 2013 1:10 am
Dana Iverson said:
Even if they were granted access to these accounts it wouldn't be long before the owners of those accounts would and could figure out a way to use them to their advantage knowing a potential employer were going to use it to make a hiring decision. If they had access without the account holder having knoweldge then maybe it would be a different story. I personally don't have any of these types of accounts but all one would have to do is delete one or just start another with what all the ** the potential employer would want to hear. Similar to ebay, you must start an account when buying or selling, when you buy of sell something the buyers or sellers leave feedback on your screenname either good or bad. Your feedback score is like an honor system. The more positive feedback you have the more other ebayers feel they can trust you. On the other hand if you have someone who has some good and some bad feedback all one would have to do is delete that account and start another with a new screen name and bingo, a fresh start, see all the negative is gone and you have a fresh start. I guess what I'm saying is everyone gets a fresh start if they don't like the one they have now and the employers would know nothing of the prior account. Just set up a new bigger and better account and tell them what they want to hear, lie to them, ya baby, what else you want to hear? Nothing is written in stone, its the internet.
February 13, 2013 7:13 am
stuart urie said:
Small wonder that the police want access to private accounts...It's called a job interview...not a job interrogation.
February 13, 2013 9:23 am
Sam Allen said:
Law enforcement and other employers have historically conducted background checks without access to social media and have done just fine. I think job candidates should think long and hard before going to work for any voyeuristic employer that feels compelled to spy on their private lives via social media. Where does it stop? Cameras in the bedroom? With that said, anyone using social media should educate themselves about privacy settings and remove any potentially harmful posts or pictures. If you aren't smart enough to use it, then you deserve what you get.
February 13, 2013 12:50 pm
JOHN ALEXION said:
Talk about an intrusion of privacy, going beyond background checks to snooping. Whats next, fill out an application and finding Magnum digging through your trash.
February 13, 2013 8:27 pm
Ashley Zyla said:
First rule of internet safety is to keep your passwords secure and NEVER give them out to anyone. I would NEVER give out my password to anyone, not even a potential employer. This is absolutely crazy. They say it is illegal to drug test freeloaders before giving them our money, but it's ok to drug test me to gain employment ? Now they want our passwords ? How about requiring passwords from the freeloaders first ? See what they are doing online.. See how they are spending all that free money.. Sorry, I will not come work for any employer who requires passwords. Where is the ACLU on this issue ? How can this possible even be legal ?
February 13, 2013 10:15 pm
Bill McGonigle said:
Everybody who is on a social media site has agreed to a contract with that site (the Terms of Service) to get an account, and one of the provisions of those contracts is that the account owners may not share their passwords with other people.So, the NH State Police would seek to induce applicants to violate their existing contracts in order to get a job? And these are the kind of candidates who we would expect to subsequently honor their Oath of Office?It sounds like the NH State Police is ensuring that any new cops that get hired will not be trustworthy. This kind of policy will have negative repercussions for years to come.
February 14, 2013 12:10 pm
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