College students’ social media privacy is officially a bipartisan issue.
Oregon legislators passed a bill through the state’s Senate April 21 barring community colleges and universities from asking prospective students for their social media log-in information as part of a school’s application process.
The Oregon bill passed unanimously, and now goes to the House. Wisconsin lawmakers could follow suit, as legislators from both sides of the aisle advocate for a bill that would disallow employers, landlords, and universities from requesting social media log-in information from tenants or aspiring college athletes.
The Oregon legislation wouldn’t stop colleges and universities from examining social media information – tweets and Facebook posts, for example – made publicly available. The law would, however, put a stop to the practice of combing through an applicant’s social media information kept out of the public eye, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
Oregon’s effort would protect any social media site that allows people to “create, share and view user-generated content.”
The Wisconsin proposal, introduced by Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, has quickly gained bipartisan support in the Legislature.
Rep. Garey Bies, a Republican from Sister Bay who’s co-sponsoring the bill, said social media access should be protected and people shouldn’t be expected to give it to employers or potential employers.
“I don’t think it is right that people could demand it from you for any consideration,” Bies said.
The bills proposed in both states are part of a wider trend toward protecting students and job applicants from having to turn over their private social media information. Philadelphia Councilman Bill Greenlee proposed a bill in February that would take similar action in that city.
Civil libertarians were recently alarmed by a section of the University of North Carolina’s student-athlete handbook that demanded the school’s athletes must choose an administrator or coach to monitor their social media accounts throughout the academic year, a policy that prompted action across the country.
Delaware in August passed a law that said colleges and universities cannot require or request that students turn over login information, nor can they ask students to log on to their personal social networking sites in the presence of a school representative.
Data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures show that in May, Maryland enacted legislation that prohibits employers from requesting or requiring an employee or applicant to disclose personal social media login information, and in June, Illinois followed suit.
In 2012, 14 states considered similar legislation that would restrict employers from requesting social networking account information from applicants, students, or employees.
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