Neal Augenstein reports:
Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler says requiring a prospective state employee to turn over his social networking user names and passwords as a condition of employment could be appropriate and legal, WTOP has learned.
A day after Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Corrections suspended the practice, which it used to root out potential employees’ possible gang affiliations, Gansler says the major problem is there hasn’t been a written policy in place for corrections officials.
Gansler, whose office defends the corrections department in court, says it “it would be patently unfair” to say to a current employee, who had passed all background checks, “Now you’re going to have to waive all your privacy rights on the Internet in terms of your social networking.”
“It’s a completely different issue to prospectively do it, and say ‘You can be a correctional officer at this facility, but one of the things you should know up front is that you’ll have to give up your passwords to your social networking websites.'”
Read more on WTOP.
So what happens after the applicant gets the job? Is AG Gansler saying that the state can require employees to continue to make access to their accounts available to check to ensure that they haven’t subsequently become gang members or are consorting with gang members? Or is he saying that it might only be appropriate at the original application stage?
I don’t think this should be legal, but I’m not surprised to read his statement that it would be if handled differently. The state would make the case that the security issues are so compelling that the request is “reasonable,” and the way SCOTUS is going, they’d defer to that.