by Art Gutman Ph.D., Professor, Florida Institute of Technology
The PPA was introduced on May 9, 2012 by Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Simultaneously, a companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Heinrich (D-NM) and Perlmutter (D-CO). A complete description of the PPA, including its text, may be viewed at Senator Blumenthal’s web page at:
Senator Blumenthal noted (among other things) that:
Employers seeking access to passwords or confidential information on social networks, email accounts, or other protected Internet services is an unreasonable and intolerable invasion of privacy ….. With few exceptions, employers do not have the need or the right to demand access to applicants’ private, password-protected information. This legislation, which I am proud to introduce, ensures that employees and job seekers are free from these invasive and intrusive practices.
As stated, the PPA prohibits employers from:
forcing prospective or current employees to provide access to their own private account as a condition of employment.
discriminating or retaliating against a prospective or current employee because that employee refuses to provide access to a password-protected account.
only prohibits adverse employment related actions as a consequence of an employee’s failure to provide access to their own private accounts.
At the same time, it preserves the rights of employers to:
Permit social networking within the office on a voluntary basis.
Set policies for employer-operated computer systems.
Hold employees accountable for stealing data from their employers
Although all of the sponsors are Democrats, it should be noted that this bill comes on the heels of similar bills introduced in Maryland and Illinois state legislatures, and sends a strong warning that employers should heed.