Category Archives: Employment

Facebook in the Law (“The Facebook Password Law”)

Thought I’d put forth a recurring segment on one of the most ubiquitous companies in the world.  A company with such extreme recent explosive growth like Facebook is ripe for viewing numerous issues related to small businesses.  The first issue we’ll look at is an Illinois law that will be enacted in two months and should be of concern to Illinois employers.  Read on for more details.

Effective January 1, 2013, a new Illinois law will make it unlawful for employers to ask both employees and prospective employees for their passwords to Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media accounts. The Illinois Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act (sometimes called the “Facebook password law”) also prohibits employers from requiring employees and prospective employees to provide access to such networking sites.

While it may seem obvious that employers shouldn’t be allowed to obtain an actual password for an account (and, it has been pointed out that doing so may violate other employment laws), the law came about in part from people complaining that they were, in fact, denied employment because they refused to provide such passwords.

Although the law will prohibit such direct access to individual’s accounts, employers will still be able to search Google and other search engines as part of a background check.  Moreover, information on Facebook that is not restricted by the user may also be viewed.  With the constant changing of Facebook’s privacy settings, potential employees should ensure that these are properly set.

The new law also has no bearing on employers’ policies regarding the use of social media, personal email and general Internet use while at work.  Illinois is just the second state (Maryland was first) to enact such legislation, but others are expected to follow.