The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services complies with the new state law, the first of its kind in the nation, that’s designed to protect the privacy of workers and job applicants on social media websites.
The ACLU of Maryland and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees raised the issue with the department last week as a follow-up to their case that spurred the new law.
A correctional officer, Robert Collins, had been required to turn over his password to Facebook for a background investigator to review as part of his return to his job after taking a leave of absence to attend to his sick mother, and watched while the investigator went through his private messages and posts. Collins later filed a complaint with the ACLU.
Department officials responded, saying they had changed the policy asking for the passwords months before the new law took effect Oct. 1.
“I was so pleased to hear not only had they stopped making these inquiries of social media use, but that they had done so months earlier,” said Deborah Jeon, legal director of the ACLU of Maryland.
In his reply Thursday to the ACLU of Maryland, department Secretary Gary D. Maynard said his agency had deleted the old policy asking for the passwords in April after the legislature passed the bill prohibiting the practice.
“I can assure you the department is in the practice of following the Maryland state statute,” Maynard said.
The General Assembly passed the measure over opposition from the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, which said some employers might have legitimate reasons for checking employees’ and applicants’ social media postings. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) later signed the measure into law.