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Illinois Bill Would Outlaw Employers From Asking For Applicants' Social Media Passwords

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Illinois State Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) is aiming to outlaw the practice of employers asking for job applicants' social networking passwords during the hiring process.
Illinois State Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) is aiming to outlaw the practice of employers asking for job applicants' social networking passwords during the hiring process.

An Illinois legislator has introduced a proposal that would bar employers from asking prospective employees for their usernames or passwords in order to gain access to their profiles on sites like Facebook or Twitter.

Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) introduced the bill (HB 3782) last spring, but the measure was recently taken up by the state legislature's Labor Committee.

The bill would amend the state's Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act to make it illegal for employers to gain access to a prospective employee's account on any social networking site during the hiring process.

The measure would not, however, prevent employers from considering information found on an applicants' public profile -- such content remains fair game and as many as 50 percent of employers say they rely on social networking sites to help them screen potential employees.

Ford explained, as reported by WJBC, that when prospective employers access an applicant's social networking account, they may gain access to sensitive financial information and other personal details that should remain private.

"If legislators had to give their Twitter and Facebook account passwords how would they like that? They wouldn't like it. They wouldn't want to give their password to anyone because it's their personal password," Ford said.

The bill was criticized by state Rep. Jill Tracy (R-Quincy), Republican spokesperson of the state Labor Committee, as over-regulating businesses, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The measure will be the subject of a hearing Tuesday before the Labor Committee.

Reports emerged last year that some job applicants, including one individual who applied for a clerical position with a North Carolina police force, were asked for their passwords for any websites such as Facebook or Myspace as part of a background check their potential employers wanted to run, the Daily Mail reported.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland spoke out last year against the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services after they allegedly ordered an employee to hand over his Facebook password if he wanted to see his job reinstated. The ACLU called such a demand "a frightening and illegal invasion of privacy" and the department suspended the practice, according to The Atlantic.

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