Thursday, August 08, 2013

No You Can't Log Into That

There are certain laws that are passed that you say to yourself: "wait...that was legal before?" Today that happened to me. Washington state joined ten other states in banning employers from asking and gaining access to their employees’ private social media accounts. Amazingly, this is a practice that not only has gone on, but wasn't outlawed already. And, maybe even more amazingly, this isn't illegal in anyplace in the Northeast north of Maryland. From Melissa Agnes Crisis Management, an employer cannot:

  • Ask for usernames and passwords of their employees’ social media accounts 
  • Make their employees go through their personal accounts in front of them 
  • Obligate their employees to add their employers as “friends” on social media 
  • Require employees to change their personal privacy settings in order to make their accounts information visible to the public (and thus them) 
The punishment for such a crime in Washington is up to a measly $500 in statutory damages that the employee may be able to attain in civil court. Whoopee...

Let's put aside how this idea of hijacking your employee's social media accounts may be illegal and focus on this: this cannot be good for your company morale or reputation. There is a fine line behind wanting to check up on your employees and making sure that they're handling themselves well in public and forcing them to allow you to spy on them. Even if you're in a state that still allows this practice, be smart and don't do it--it's not going to do anything good for your business in the end and if your state decides to make it illegal too, you may be in trouble for doing so.

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