As people are posting more and more about their personal and professional lives on social networking sites, employers are now asking employees and job applicants for passwords to their social networking accounts. This often puts job applicants and employees seeking to keep their personal lives separate from their professional lives in an awkward situation. Many job applicants fear that if they do not comply with the employer’s request, that they may be passed up for the position.
While there is no federal law protecting the social networking privacy of job seekers and employees, those living in Illinois can breath a sigh of relief when it comes to dealing with employer requests to hand over passwords to social networking accounts. On August 1, 2012, Illinois became the second state in the U.S. to pass a law making it unlawful for an employer to ask for an employee’s or job applicant’s password or other account information to gain access to the employee’s or job applicant’s account on a social networking website. The law even bars employers from asking for such information when conducting background checks.
However, employees and job applicants should still set privacy settings on their online profiles to ensure that information that they would not want an employer to see is not publicly available. This law does not stop employers from viewing information on online profiles that isn’t restricted by privacy settings on the website. In addition, employers can still restrict access and use of the Internet and social networking sites in the workplace.