As the use of social media continues to grow and become more ingrained in the daily life of many Wisconsin residents, state lawmakers are making a push to help protect the privacy rights of users.
State Representative Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) is the cosponsor of a bill that would prohibit employers, educational institutions, and landlords from asking employees, potential employees, students, and prospective tenants to hand over their passwords to social media accounts. The practice has become more common in recent years, as social media often becomes a common forum for people to share information and can provide an insight into an applicant’s daily life.
The bill would still allow businesses and school officials to look at information that has been shared publicly on social media sites and companies could still track information shared using equipment they own.
AUDIO: Rep. Sargent (:15)
During a hearing on the bill Tuesday at the state Capitol, Sargent said “requiring access to personal social media accounts is an invasion of privacy,” and individuals should not be forced to give up that privacy simply because they are seeking a job or want to attend a school. She says the requirement has put job applicants in a tough spot in a difficult economy, as they are sometimes put on the spot to give up account information during an interview.
The bill has received broad bipartisan support, with Republican Senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) serving as the Senate cosponsor. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s business lobby, has also spoken out in support of the legislation
The Wisconsin Association of School Boards has raised concerns that the current language could prevent schools from going after cyberbullies or investigating possible inappropriate relationships between students and teachers. Supporters says they will work to make sure it does not hinder those efforts and Sargent has indicated a substitute amendment is in the works to address concerns that have been raised about the legislation.