Senate Orders Study Of Social Media Privacy Laws

By John Dillon

Legislation that would have banned employers from accessing the social media accounts of their workers was watered down to a study of the issue by the Vermont Senate.

The Senate on Thursday passed the measure on a unanimous voice vote. It sets up a study of existing social media privacy laws, as well as proposed legislation in other states. The committee is supposed to report back to the Legislature next January.

The bill started out with a far more pro-active approach. As originally proposed by Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, the measure would have prohibited potential employers from requiring passwords for Twitter, Facebook, or other social media accounts.

“I hope the study finds that we should be protecting job applicants from being required to release what is essentially private information,” Sears said.

The study bill would have been strengthened through an amendment offered by Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Windham. His amendment would have barred employers from accessing a worker’s personal computer, email, phone, letters or dairies that were created prior to employment.

But Galbraith withdrew his proposal because of confusion over the wording of the amendment.