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Gordon: Is it Illegal To Access Applicants' Social Networks?

PRIVACY LAW—U.S.

March 11, 2011

In a report for Workplace Privacy Counsel, Philip Gordon reviews a recent incident where the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland called the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services' practice of asking job applicants to disclose their social networking passwords to check for criminal activities illegal under federal and state law. Gordon points out that the laws apply to "unauthorized access to electronic communications stored at an electronic communications service provider," writing that, in this case, "the Maryland Corrections Department did not gain 'unauthorized' access to applicants' Facebook pages" since the passwords were provided. "Applicants are not 'forced' to provide authorization," he writes, as the department specifies that applicants may still be considered for employment if they refuse.
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