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‘Delete friend request’: Bill would bar employers from accessing employees’ social media accounts

HF2116, sponsored by Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul) would bar employers from accessing workers' personal social media accounts. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Employers would be barred from accessing workers’ personal social media accounts under a bill making its way through the Legislature.

If there was a “Like” button on public policy, the House Civil Law and Data Practices Policy Committee on Thursday would have given the thumbs up to HF2116, which would prohibit employers from requiring, requesting or coercing an employee or applicant to give them access to personal accounts, whether it’s Facebook or Instagram, or podcasts and e-mails. The bill would carve out exceptions for employers, including scouring publicly available content or accessing accounts for internal harassment investigations.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul), was approved and now moves to the House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee. Its companion, SF2038, sponsored by Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Mpls), awaits action by the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee.

“Over the past several years there’s been a strong bipartisan consensus that we need to empower Minnesotans to take control of their privacy and bring our digital privacy laws into the 21st century,” said Ben Feist, legislative director for ACLU Minnesota. “We believe that every person should have the right to decide who they want to share private, personal information with. Privacy is not about keeping secrets, it’s about maintaining control over our lives.”

Employers wouldn’t be able to ask for usernames or passwords, or ask employees to login to observe the account, or “friend” them.

Under the proposal, employers wouldn’t be able to take any action for an employee refusing to give up personal, nonpublic social media account information. The bill would prohibit employers from failing to hire applicants who refused.

Employees would be able to sue their boss or company for any violations.

“I don’t want an employer to even be able to ask for it,” Lesch said. 

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