Maryland Employers Prohibited from Requesting Facebook Passwords–Does that include NCAA Coaches?

Maryland–cutting edge? After a contentious end of session, Maryland became the first state in the U.S. to pass a law prohibiting its employers to demand social media account information from current or prospective employees. April 9th’s Sine Die (the session is “without days”) dragged into a stalemate early Tuesday, forcing Maryland to pass a Doomsday Budget requiring massive funding cuts in vital state services like education.

Imagine our delight to discovered an a hidden easter egg–Senate Bill 433 which forbids Maryland employers and their HR people from requiring or requesting social media names and passwords from employees or prospective hires.  It is understandable that employers dislike surprises and that “inside information” often reduces the likelihood of surprises.  However, as the Baltimore Sun reports, the bill’s sponsors rightly likened such practices to eavesdropping on private telephone calls. Have you checked out your HR Policy to see if your folks are running Facebook checks? Even without requiring a password it might seem “creepy” to your employees.

My law students would be interested in discussing whether Maryland’s law could extend to similarly invasive practices by NCAA coaches. In some ways an NCAA athlete’s situation is akin to that of an employee or intern. The New York Times ran a piece a couple weeks about some colleges that require athletes to provide access to their Facebook or Twitter accounts, either by downloading software to monitor them or simply requiring that they let a coach, an administrator or a third-party company “friend” them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

Does one have a reasonable expectation of privacy on Twitter or Facebook? Perhaps not on a person’s public pages, but one would expect to have privacy in private portions of social media accounts. (Another reminder to finetune #privacy_settings!) But using monitoring software to track athlete conduct online is not only creepy, it could run afoul of anti-stalking laws.

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