Maryland to Sign ‘Shoulder Surfing’ Bill Into Law

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Today, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is signing into law the first piece of legislation designed to prevent employees or prospective employees from being forced to turn over their login credentials for social networking sites.

Sponsored by a bipartisan group of state senators and delegates, the new law will prohibit employers from punishing or firing workers who don’t want to share private Facebook profile information, and prohibits companies from not hiring a job applicant based on their refusal to provide information like their user name and password.

The new Maryland law, which goes into effect Oct. 1, is likely to be the first of several similar state-level laws. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, which supports this type of legislation, similar bills are working their way through the legislative process in Illinois, California, Minnesota, Michigan, and Massachusetts. According to local news outlets in New Jersey, state assemblyman John Burzichelli also plans to introduce a password privacy bill in the next legislative session.

(MORE: Can Interviewers Insist on ‘Shoulder Surfing’ Your Facebook Page?)

Some of these in-progress bills focus more on employers’ relationships to current and prospective employees, while some also address the practice of college admissions officials demanding passwords from prospective students.

These efforts may be moot, though, if some Congressional lawmakers get their way. New York Representative Eliot Engel and Illinois Representative Jan Schakowsky, both Democrats, introduced a bill called SNOPA, the Social Networking Online Protection Act, last week. SNOPA would prohibit colleges, schools and employers from requiring current as well as prospective students or employees to turn over Facebook or other social network login credentials.

(MORE: Facebook Weighs In and Blasts ‘Shoulder Surfing’ by Employers)

“No one would feel comfortable going to a public place and giving out their username and passwords to total strangers,” Engel said in a statement. “They should not be required to do so at work, at school, or while trying to obtain work or an education.”

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