Monday, April 9, 2012

Maryland: The First State To Protect our Social Media Privacy and Security

Maryland has become the first state to protect the social media and electronic account privacy and security of its citizens. The legislation is a win for employers and employees. The Maryland legislature said loud and clear that in these difficult times businesses should not be required to spend tens of thousands of dollars per year to hire social media monitoring companies to review their employees' password protected digital content. In order to become enacted, SB 433 still needs to be signed by Governor Martin O'Malley. Once it is has been signed, the legislation will not go into effect until October 1, 2012. Therefore, until this legislation becomes law nothing has changed in the sate of Maryland.

This legislation may also shield companies in Maryland from lawsuits that allege that a company failed to properly monitor their employees' private electronic content and from negligent social media monitoring lawsuits. The potential savings to Maryland businesses per year is tens of millions of dollars.
In general, Maryland employees will now be protected against being required to turn their password protected digital content in order to obtain or keep a job.

I personally reached out to Facebook about Maryland's legislation and asked them for their support. I want to publicly thank Facebook for their assistance. To Facebook's credit, they came out strongly against employers and schools demanding access to password protected digital content on March 23, 2012. I am hopeful that Facebook along with other Internet companies will strongly support federal legislation that would protect both employees and students from having their electronic account privacy and security compromised by those who don't understand social media, the law, or public policy.

For most jobs, employees should not be required to provide access to their password protected electronic content. In addition, students at public schools should never be required to provide access to their password protected electronic content to their schools and/or social media monitoring companies such as UDiligence, Varsity Monitor, or Centrix Social.

On February 20, 2011, I publicly stated that this issue, "may one day be decided by the courts and/or state legislatures and/or Congress." I am proud to have successfully lobbied Maryland to pass this groundbreaking legislation. I have discussed these troubling issues with multiple state legislators across the country and federal officials. I am hopeful that more states and the federal government pass similar legislation. I urge everyone to lobby their representatives in their state legislatures and in Congress to pass bipartisan legislation that protects the personal electronic privacy and security rights of employees and students and provides the business community with bright lines rules that will protect them against social media lawsuits.

(Full Disclosure: I was not paid for my work on this legislation. There is a tremendous lack of understanding about the legal and public policy issues inherent in the Social Media Age and I want to protect employers, employees, job applicants, schools, students, student applicants, and taxpayers from unforeseen legal issues that may arise. Therefore, I was in constant contact with Maryland State Senator Ronald Young and Maryland State Delegate Shawn Tarrant to work with them to create a common sense solution to these problems.)

To learn how social media intersects with the law you may contact me at http://shearlaw.com/attorney_profile.

Copyright 2012 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.

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