Lawmakers Gear Up For Facebook Privacy

Let’s face it… you’ve had a rough day.  Four hours in court after a 12-hour shift.  Half a dozen dirt-bags have insulted you, the tired Crown Vic you drive is on its last legs, and you had to watch some perp get off with a slap on the wrist.  You’re tired and tired of it.  Feel like sharing your frustrations with your friends, don’t you?

Don’t be so fast.  Cool your jets, Turbo.  The world is watching and it’s called the Internet.

OK, you’re not going to be like those other guys on the force who got caught putting up their frustrations on the public side of their Facebook or Twitter.  You have your profile settings set to private so only your friends can see what you think of that judge, chief, captain, lieutenant, or whatever.  What can possibly go wrong?


There is a trend among employers, including various levels of government, to demand access to your login info for all your social networking sites as a condition of employment.  It’s already happening during job interviews.  If the trend continues, it might happen in the course of a performance appraisal.  Think that will never happen to you?  Think again.

The trend includes law enforcement… at least the Spotsylvania, Virginia Sheriff’s Department.  In the case of this agency, they don’t want your login information.  They just want to be “friended.”  Remember what you shared with your friends?

Fox News reported on two cases in which prospective employees were asked for their Facebook login info as casually as if they were just handed a W-4 to fill out.  One walked out.  One didn’t; that one needed the job too much to turn it down.

Currently, legislators in Illinois and Maryland are crafting bills to prohibit public agencies from demanding access to your Facebook, Twitter, or whatever other social media you use.  However, there seems to be little available to the employee to protect themselves from such intrusion.

So what can you do?  For one, you can let your FOP or PBA know what you think of this and share your opinion with your state senator and representative.  Ask them, “What’s next?  Are they going to demand my login for my bank, cell phone, and utilities?”  “Maybe somebody wants to know if I’m using too much electricity so they can “weed out” basement farmers growing marijuana.  Just how much privacy am I willing to surrender to have a job?”

Another thing is to know what you have on Facebook or LinkedIn and ensure that nothing is there that might come back to haunt you.  Know that agencies and companies frequently have non-disparaging agreements with workers as a condition of employment.  There’s nothing wrong with such an agreement.  It doesn’t make sense to bad mouth or otherwise embarrass the people who are paying you.  However, it also doesn’t make sense to give them the key to your house and move in with you.

Bruce Bremer, MBA is LET’s technology contributor. Bruce retired from the Submarine Service after 21 years of in-depth experience with complex electronic technology. Since then, he has been involved in fleet modernization and military research analysis. He teaches electronics and alternative energy at a Virginia college. Besides his MBA, Bruce earned a Bachelor of Science degree in computer networking. He has been volunteering in public safety for many years.

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