SOCIAL MEDIA PRIVACY PROTECTION

By Bob Katzen

The Labor and Workforce Development Committee held a hearing on a proposal designed to protect students and employees from being forced or bullied into providing schools and companies with information about and access to their social media accounts.

Provisions prohibit any school from requiring a student or applicant and an employee or applicant to disclose photographs, videos, a user name, password or other means of access to a personal social media account; prohibit requiring an individual to “friend” a coach, school administrator, other school employees or employer as a condition of employment or participation in school activities; allow an aggrieved student or applicant to bring a civil suit against the school for violating these new laws; and permit schools to disclose lawfully obtained information from a student’s personal social media account to law enforcement.

Supporters say that a growing number of employers and schools are demanding access to the social media account of students and employees and prospective students and employees. They argue this is an invasion of privacy that should not be allowed in the Bay State. They say demanding access to a social media account is the same as demanding offline access to a person’s diary, regular mail, photo albums and conversations the person has with family and friends—offline things that would never be demanded by a school or employer.

“We would not expect a potential employer to read our mail or eavesdrop on a private conversation when we apply for a job,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Ken Gordon (D-Bedford). “So, it’s understandable why a job applicant should be protected from a potential employer’s request for a social media password so the employer can read private messages. An employer can be expected to search an applicant’s public social media posts and this bill will not interfere with that.”

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