Posted: Feb 6, 2013 3:35 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - Facebook reports more than 1 billion people are using its social media site every month. Now, the Montana Legislature is debating whether or not employers could gain access to your personal Facebook account.
A group of University of Montana law students have drafted a bill that aims to protect people from having their personal Facebook information made available to their employer.
Senator Anders Blewett of Great Falls (D) is carrying Senate Bill 195 which prohibits companies from requiring an employee or an applicant to turn over access to personal Facebook, email and other social media accounts.
Supporters of the bill, including the ACLU of Montana claim it protects all Montanans right to privacy.
The ACLU's Public Policy Director Niki Zupanic says employees shouldn't have to trade privacy as a condition of employment.
"Imagine if your boss asked for the keys to your home," Zupanic says. "It would be like opening the door, going through your drawers, thumbing through your photo albums. That's what this bill seeks to prevent."
The bill came about after the City of Bozeman required applicants to turn over their usernames and passwords to their social media accounts as part of the hiring process. Blewett says this is a blatant disregard of privacy and he wants to prevent that from ever happening again.
However, a handful of employers including the Montana Chamber of Commerce oppose the bill, saying businesses may need this personal information to investigate employee misconduct.
Bruce Spencer from the Montana Automobile Dealers Association says it could also open up businesses to litigation.
"To be perfectly frank, it's entirely legitimate that they are able to look at their employees' activity on work computers," Spencer testified. "The statute is way too broadly written and creates a huge liability concern for employers when they are quite properly trying to monitor their employee's use of company materials on company time."