One of the more interesting aspects of following the Utah State Legislature is the ability to watch new laws address new issues. The concept of “Internet Privacy” is relativity new – after all, the internet boom is only 14 years old, Facebook is only 9 years old, Twitter is only 7 years old, and Google+ is only 2 years old.
During this time, companies have come to learn the great value of these and other resources. Typically, a company will use these social media platforms to advertise a product or increase customer goodwill. However, it is not uncommon for HR directors to scan the profiles of potential new employees to see if their stories check out and if they can be deemed relativity reliable based on things such as posted photos or status updates.
When this information is public, like many Facebook profiles, there is no legal harm done – after all, if you as a potential employee decide to make that information public, you have no legitimate complaint when an employer or potential employer views it.
But what if a current or potential employer requires that you provide your private username and password, and then accesses your private information?
The issue has come up more and more over the years, and, as of January of this year, only three states (California, Illinois, and Michigan) have laws explicitly banning employers from asking for passwords to access private accounts.
Representative Stewart Barlow (Republican, Fruit Heights) wants to make Utah the fourth state to adopt such measures by proposing HB 100 – Internet Privacy Amendments (Please note that the current bill has been amended).
The bill does two main things for potential job applicants. First, it makes it illegal for a company or state institution to ask for a password to access an applicants private information, and secondly, allows a person who has been harmed by an employer who requests such information to receive, in civil court, up to $500 from the employer if they can prove they were harmed as a result of they employer accessing such information.
But employers are not left out in the dark either. As stated above, an employer could still access public information on an employee, and the bill makes it very clear that an employee must still turn over the records of a private password if there is specific information on a personal account that might suggest that, say, an employee is stealing information and transporting it through a personal email account.
In many ways, this law is very forward thinking and will serve the public in a way that is fair and equitable. The issue of personal privacy, especially internet privacy, will likely dominate the national conversation over the next 20 years. By laying the foundation now of a pro-privacy legislature now, we are ensuring that Utah will be at the forefront of protecting its citizens from ever changing needs.
To contact Rep. Barlow, Click Here or call 801-544-4708
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Great Bill 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 . -1 . -2 . -3 . -4 . -5 Poor Bill