A bill was passed by the state Assembly last Tuesday that would prohibit employers, landlords and colleges from requesting passwords of applicants’ social media accounts. However, invasive Facebook creeping on the accounts of potential employees, tenants and students would still be permissible. This also includes the ability of employers to friend potential employees on Facebook. (Quick digression: Why does the image of a large room containing a majority of old, white and all-American males discussing the finer points of social media usage seem so hysterical?)
It is without a doubt that modern technology necessitates regulation and oversight—and a speedy legislative response, which has time and time again been left out of the equation. This has forced regular Internet users into the dark, uncertain void of personal responsibility, lacking the sunshine that comes with nonstop government intervention; it is an area that is instead filled with somber and gloomy privacy violations.
However, this piece of legislation would not illuminate all the pitch-black corners of this void. It does not, for example, prevent monitoring of social media users’ public posts. This means we must maintain our levels of constant vigilance by not allowing our youthful transgressions to catch up with us. (This means no posting those vulgar, cleavage-filled or alcohol-infused images you’re dying to display!) That is especially crucial to note since the new bill would allow photos and textual posts to still be used in a discriminatory fashion, meaning that the advent of this legislation would still require individuals to accept a certain level of personal accountability.
It has become common knowledge that potential employers can and will look through social media accounts, so it has become almost irresponsible to post something online that may jeopardize a job opportunity in the future. However, having seen numerous pictures of underage college students drinking and multiple tweets about those same people regularly going out and “getting smashed,” I’m convinced that many are just completely apathetic in regards to potential future consequences. After all, it’s not your employer’s business what you share with friends and family on Facebook, what you rant about on Twitter, or what you reblog on Tumblr. Additionally, it seems ridiculous that an employer would need to assess someone’s personal life through such a means when looking only for a qualified individual to fill a professional position. At the same time though, privacy online is simply nonexistent. It’s not realistic to expect that something you share via social media will remain confidential.
Overall, this piece of legislation is applaudable; though something of this nature is long overdue, it definitely does take a stab at protecting the privacy that many Americans have come to value as a civil liberty. Regardless, it remains a mystery to me as to why employers especially feel that they need access to this type of information. Since it is so easily accessible, however, it’s only expected that these resources would be tapped and eventually exploited. The best and safest thing we can do, as citizens of the 21st century with high hopes for future employment, is to sever our relationship with social media and go back to tapping out explicit messages to our friends via telegraph.
Briana Reilly ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in journalism and international studies.