UPDATE: Lawmakers push bill to protect employees' social media - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: WI lawmakers push bill to protect employees' social media


MADISON (WKOW) -- Nearly everyone is on a social media site and more and more, employers are using all that online activity to learn more about their workers but some Wisconsin lawmakers aren't happy about that, they think it's a matter of protecting privacy.

A bipartisan bill, just about to be introduced, would keep employers, colleges and landlords from demanding access to people's personal social media sites and passwords. The goal is to protect current or prospective employees, students, and tenants from discrimination based on their online activity.

Democratic Rep. Melissa Sargent, from Madison, wrote the bill in her first few months on the job. She says she's gotten a lot of support so far from other lawmakers. About 50 in the Assembly and Senate have indicated they'd support it.

Sargent says she's also heard from a lot of people who think it's a good idea, because protecting privacy is important in a world of constantly-changing social media and technology.

"I think it's really important, as legislators, that we stay up on times; that's why we're here, we're here to be reactive to the changing times," says Sargent. " After putting [the bill] out for circulation, I've had a number of people call me and talk to me about how on job applications, especially younger people, have been asked to provide this info. It actually discouraged them from applying for jobs."

The bill does not stop an employer from using public postings on Facebook or Twitter when considering an employee, only the private information, like passwords, messages and other posts blocked from public view.

Employers would still be able to access information though, if part of the job involves social media or using a company-owned computer.

Social media privacy has gotten a lot of attention nationwide. Sargent says eight other states have enacted laws like these and at least 30 more are considering it.

Facebook is responding, too. Officials recently released a statement, expressing concern over employers or others seeking access to people's Facebook profiles or private information. In part, that statement reads:

"This practice undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user's friends. It also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability."

It goes on to say:

"If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password, let anyone access your account, or do anything that might jeopardize the security of your account or violate the privacy of your friends."

It is now a violation of Facebook rights to share or solicit your password, even if asked by an employer.

27 news reached out to the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce to see how the bill could affect local businesses. A spokesperson says the organization can't comment because it hasn't been officially introduced yet, and they haven't seen all the details.

A spokesperson for the Apartment Association of Southcentral Wisconsin says she has never heard of landlords ever asking for access to social media, so she doesn't know how the bill could affect the industry.

Sargent says the bill was written to make sure everyone's privacy is covered now and in the future, as social media continually changes.

Visit our 27 News Facebook page to see what users think about the proposal.


MADISON (WKOW) -- A state lawmaker from Madison is pushing legislation that would stop employers from requiring access to employees' and job applicants' personal social media accounts.

The proposal has a bi-partisan push, with Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) and Rep. Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay) co-sponsoring of the bill.  

Bies says social media access should be protected, and that it's not right that employees can demand it and use something against a person found on a personal social media account.

At least 35 states are considering similar laws and several have already passed them.

Jennifer Kliese spoke with Rep. Sergant and a social media expert about the bill and its possible impact, and we'll have more tonight in 27 News at 5 and 6.

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