Bill protects employees' personal online data

Members of the Nevada Assembly heard the case Friday for barring employers from requesting private access to most current and prospective employees' online accounts and credit history reports.

Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, presented AB181 to the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee in a sparsely populated hearing room. His measure aims to protect citizens from having to release personal information that is not publically shared.

"The public facing side of someone's social media, I think, is absolutely fair game for checking for references and trying to check someone's character- that makes total sense," Bobzien told committee members. "What this is contemplating is asking someone for their log-in information so they can get behind that public wall."

AB181 prohibits employers from requesting the username and password for a host of personal social media accounts employees or applicants may have. It also disallows employers from making promotion or hiring decisions based on a person's refusal to cede their information.

Ten other states -including California - are considering laws protecting the privacy of social media accounts in the employment process, according to a report by the Council of State Governments. Many social media sites - including Facebook - prohibit the sharing of passwords in their terms of service.

The second half of the bill deals with consumer reports or credit history reports of the employee or applicant. Jobs that deal directly with company finances -including purchasing, payroll, etc. - or occupations where an employer is bound by state or federal law to review a credit history report are not subject to this section of the bill.

The proposed law would also not hinder the vetting process for Nevada law enforcement applicants which includes a review of social media accounts.

"The fact that it will provide security to the people of this state without stifling our ability to properly perform background checks of future public officers it just seems like good public policy," said Lt. Eric Spratley of the Washoe County Sheriff's office.

Disallowing employers from accessing private parts of applicants' social media accounts actually protects them from potential discrimination lawsuits, James Elste, the chief cyber strategist at Nevada Cyber Initiatives told the committee.

"You're not allowed to ask for the individual's age, religious affiliation, any sort of sexual orientation or medical conditions that they may have," he said. "When you go into their social media site, that information is basically provided to you in their profile."

Elste added that the interconnectivity of multiple online accounts and services, revealing log-in information could compromise a litany of sensitive items.

"These identities in cyberspace are being used more and more to support transactions for banking, for health care, for retail transactions," Elste said. "It isn't simply a matter of accessing individual social media account."

The bill does not restrict companies from requesting employees' log-in credentials for company hardware or software, and companies can still monitor employees' online activities on company devices during the workday.

The committee took no action Friday, and Bobzien told The Associated Press that it will likely be considered for a vote in the next few weeks.


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