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Proposed Bill Would Protect Employees' Facebook Passwords

A bill filed in the U.S. House of Representatives Friday would protect people from snooping employers and schools.

A bill that would stop employers from requesting future hires' social networking passwords has been filed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill, called the Social Networking Online Protection Act, or SNOPA, was filed Friday by Rep. Eliot Engel (D - New York) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D - Illinois). The proposed law would not only prohibit employers from asking current and potential employees for the usernames and passwords to their social networking accounts, it would also prohibit colleges, universities, and K-12 schools from asking the same of their students. The bill would also bar employers and schools from demanding access to such accounts or online content, and from punishing employees and students who refuse to volunteer the information.

"Several states, including New York, have begun addressing this issue," Rep. Engel said in a statement. "But we need a federal statute to protect all Americans across the country."

A bill to protect employees' passwords from snooping bosses is currently on the governor's desk in Maryland, waiting to be signed into law. Nine similar measures have been introduced around the country, but they have yet to clear the committees they were referred to.

Rep. Engel claims the legislation is a line in the sand that defines what's private.

"No one would feel comfortable going to a public place and giving out their username and passwords to total strangers," he said. "They should nto be required to do so at work, school, or while trying to obtain work or an education. This is a matter of personal privacy and makes sense in our digital world."

Several lawmakers have blustered about filing password protection legislation--including Rep. Patrick McHenry (R - North Carolina), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D - Connecticut), and Sen. Charles Schumer (D - New York)--but Engel and Schakowsky are the first actually file a bill on the matter.

Follow freelance technology writer John P. Mello Jr. and Today@PCWorld on Twitter.

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