Monday | December 11, 2017
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Bill would ban bosses from workers’ personal accounts

HONOLULU — Hawaii lawmakers are pushing a bill to ban employers from accessing employees’ personal social media accounts.

So far, more than 20 states have banned employers from snooping in employees’ personal accounts. About a dozen others are considering similar bills this year.

Some employers say access to social media accounts are necessary to protect businesses’ proprietary information or trade secrets, while advocates to the proposed law say it’s an invasion of personal privacy.

“When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they didn’t have Facebook. They didn’t have email,” said Rep. Matt LoPresti, who introduced the Hawaii bill. “Fast forward to the 21st century and the digital age — I think it’s an obvious extension of the intent of the Founding Fathers.”

If passed, the proposed law would ban Hawaii employers from requiring or requesting employees and job applicants to disclose information about personal social media accounts. It would also prevent employers requiring employees to add them to their contacts lists, for instance, as a friend on Facebook.

However, it wouldn’t prevent employers from accessing information that’s already public. They would also be able to access private accounts when investigating workplace problems such as harassment or discrimination.

Supporters of the bill say that access to employees’ passwords could expose employers to information that they’re otherwise forbidden to ask.

For instance, bosses could learn information about workers’ religions or ethnicities, which could lead to discrimination.

“There are a lot of reasons why you wouldn’t want to share that information,” said LoPresti, adding that it could make job applicants look less employable.

Mandy Finlay, advocacy coordinator at the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, said that just as employers shouldn’t be allowed to look through personal belongings in employees’ homes, they also have no legitimate business snooping in electronic personal communications.

She said the practice violates employee privacy, as well as anyone they’ve communicated with.

However, some business organizations say the law may not be necessary.

The Hawaii Chamber of Commerce said it hadn’t seen “empirical evidence” that employers routinely access employee social media accounts.

 

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