Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced legislation today to protect users of social networking sites from having to divulge personal information to employers, schools and universities.

The legislation protects people already employed or enrolled, and those seeking employment or admittance, or those facing disciplinary action.

“Social media sites have become a widespread communications tool – both personally and professionally – all across the world.* However, a person’s so-called ‘digital footprint’ is largely unprotected.* There have been a number of reports about employers requiring new applicants to give their username and password as part of the hiring process.* The same has occurred at some schools and universities.* Part of the attraction to social networking is that you can feel free to interact with those you wish to, and post content as if it were part of a group dynamic.* Passwords are the gateway to many avenues containing personal and sensitive content – including email accounts, bank accounts and other information,” said Rep. Engel.

Congressman Engel’s Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA) would:

  • Prohibit current or potential employers from requiring a username, password or other access to online content.* It does not permit employers to demand such access to discipline, discriminate or deny employment to individuals, nor punish them for refusing to volunteer the information.
  • Apply the same restrictions to colleges and universities, and K-12 schools as well.
Rep. Schakowsky said, “I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this legislation.* The American people deserve the right to keep their personal accounts private.* No one should have to worry that their personal account information, including passwords, can be required by an employer or educational institution, and if this legislation is signed into law, no one will face that possibility.”

Rep. Engel said, “Several states, including New York have begun addressing this issue, but we need a federal statute to protect all Americans across the country. We must draw the line somewhere and define what is private.* No one would feel comfortable going to a public place and giving out their username and passwords to total strangers.* They should not be required to do so at work, at school, or while trying to obtain work or an education.* This is a matter of personal privacy and makes sense in our digital world.” *Rep. Engel is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.…