Employee Facebook privacy bill advances in Colo.

Colorado lawmakers may bar employers from requiring social media passwords

Associated Press

DENVER (AP) -- Facebook profiles and other social-media accounts could be off-limits to employers under a bill approved unanimously in a Colorado House committee Tuesday.

The measure, approved 11-0, would bar most employers from requiring access to their workers' personal accounts. Several states already have such protections, and dozens more are considering them.

The bill would not prohibit companies from looking at Facebook pages or punishing employees for what they post on their personal sites. But it would ban them from requiring current or potential employees to provide passwords for personal accounts.

The measure's sponsor said private social media accounts should be considered like physical photographs.

"It's never been acceptable for en employer to ask to see an employee's personal photos," said Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver.

The bill was amended to exempt law enforcement agencies and corrections workers, since those workers' personal opinions or off-duty actions can affect their use as witnesses in criminal matters.

"They need to know that the people they have working for them are above reproach and have a higher standard," said Ann Marie Jensen of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.

Lawmakers rejected a proposal to give all businesses permission to require personal social media access for "legitimate business interests."

Kim Smiley of the Colorado Defense Lawyers Association suggested businesses should be allowed to require access in some cases. She used examples of an employee threatening violence or bragging about drinking alcohol on the clock.

Lawmakers responded that employers dealt with those problems long before social media networking. Rep. Libby Szabo, R-Arvada, pointed out that employers once used their noses to suss out an employee who drank too much at lunch.

"There was life before Facebook," Szabo said.

The measure awaits one more committee vote before it's considered by the full House.

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House Bill 1046: http://bit.ly/UOffsH

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