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Though it may seem like many employers are requiring social media passwords as a condition of employment, in reality, that doesn't appear to be the case.
In fact, only 3 percent of Americans have been asked by an employer to fork over their social media passwords, a new FindLaw survey reveals.
The rarity of password collection by employers is welcome news to employees. In fact, 83 percent of American adults say that employers should not be allowed to obtain passwords to personal social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, according to the FindLaw survey.
Only a mere 7 percent of surveyed individuals said employers should have the right to access their social network passwords. Another 10 percent weren't sure how they felt about the practice.
One natural question to ask is why aren't employers asking for passwords? After all, password collection could purportedly help companies screen job candidates, protect proprietary information or trade secrets, comply with federal financial regulations, thwart PR disasters, and protect against vicarious legal liability.
The low rate of password collection may be due to employers' fear of legal liability for invasion of employee privacy. Particular concerns include accessing an employee's social media accounts and unwittingly discovering an employee's protected characteristics, such as religious preferences, confidential medical information, and arrests that never resulted in convictions.
As for the potential for lawsuits, just last year, Facebook announced that it may initiate legal action against employers who ask for job seekers' Facebook passwords. Apart from incurring the wrath of Facebook, employers have emerging state laws to fear too.
At least 10 states have passed laws that expressly prohibit employers from requesting passwords to personal online accounts as a condition of employment, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Similar legislation is pending in at least 26 other states.
A handful of states have also passed legislation to prevent public colleges and universities from obtaining access to students' social networking accounts, according to FindLaw.com.
If you're an employee or employer who would "Like" more information on the legality of password collection policies, you may want to consult an experienced employment attorney near you.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.