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Proposed law bans employers from asking for social media passwords

By Lauren Maschmedt, KTVM Anchor, lmaschmedt@ktvm.com
Published On: Mar 14 2013 11:09:46 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Should employers have the right to ask prospective employees and current workers for their social media passwords?

"It's a huge violation of my privacy" said Bozeman resident Sara Lytle.
Bozemanite William Davis agrees. "It's password protected for a reason" he said.

Some residents said the answer is no way.

But as it stands, nothing in current Montana law prevents employers from requesting passwords for their employees or applicants social media accounts.

So the legislature is taking a look at a law that would change that.

When Deputy Mayor Jeff Krauss heard of the Senate Bill 195, it brought up an all-too-familiar situation.

"We were asking even not just the police and fire and public safety people- but everybody. All employees" he said.

In 2009, the city came under fire and gained international attention for requiring job applicants to provide passwords to sites like Facebook. It led to a $10,000 investigation.

Krauss said Commissioners weren't aware of the policy. But after it grabbed theirs- and the world's- attention, the city dropped it.

But other employers still have a right to implement it.

"I'd probably just say I don't feel comfortable giving that out" Davis said, about how he'd react if asked to give up his password for a job.

Lytle said she'd do the same. "I would refuse to let them view it" she said.

They said they wouldn't play by those rules when applying for a job. But Davis he'd understand if a boss asked for it after they were hired.

"I think a boss has every right to say, 'Hey, I want the password to your Facebook account because you've been doing this and this, and I've been hearing all of this'" he said.

Opponents of SB 195 agree, and say the measure would hinder a business' ability to conduct work-related investigations.

But Krauss said after the city's incident, he thinks it should be banned everywhere.

"We did put a stop to it, and it's not likely to return" he said.

The proposed law passed the Senate and needs the committee's endorsement to move to the full House.