Nearly one in four people around the world use social media today, according to a 2013 report by eMarketer. Social media’s surge in popularity has caused a sea change in how people act and behave, as well as the image they portray, whether intentionally or not.
It didn’t take long for employers to recognize social media as a useful tool to learn more about potential new hires.
Controversy and debate erupted when employers started asking potential job candidates for passwords to their social media accounts. Presumably, these requests were intended to allow employers to learn more about a candidate by accessing their password-protected content. Unsurprisingly, the outrage and indignation surrounding this practice were so strong that it was only a matter of time before legislatures took aim at this practice.
Indeed, several states swiftly began passing laws aimed at prohibiting this practice. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 28 states have passed or are considering passing laws aimed at prohibiting employers from requiring employers and job applicants to disclose social media passwords and other password-protected social media information.
On June 30, 2014, Rhode Island joined those growing ranks by enacting a social media privacy law that impacts all employers.
Under Rhode Island’s new social media privacy law, employers cannot:
• Require employees or job applicants to disclose their social media account passwords.
• Require employees or job applicants to show or disclose to an employer the content of any social media account.
• Require employees to add the employer to an employee’s list of social media contacts (e.g., Facebook friends, Twitter followers, Instagram followers, LinkedIn connections, etc.)
• Require or ask employees to change their security settings on their social media accounts.
National Conference of State Legislatures,
Pannone Lopes Devereaux & West LLC,