Welch advocates for password privacy protection
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | February 22,2013
BRATTLEBORO — Employers should not be able to require employees or would-be employees to turn over their social media passwords as a condition of employment, Rep. Peter Welch said Thursday.
Welch told reporters at a press conference Thursday that he would be re-introducing legislation next week that would ban the practice.
It’s not clear exactly how great the password problem is. Welch said his office hadn’t received a single complaint about passwords concerning a Vermont employer. But he said many people are very concerned about the issue, viewing it as a major attack on privacy.
“People have a real concern about maintaining privacy,” he said. Welch said that people should be able to set their own privacy settings on such social media sites such as Facebook and expect privacy.
The Password Protection Act, which already had 58 “likes” on Welch’s congressional Facebook page Thursday afternoon, would prohibit employers from asking or requiring passwords.
“Employees have a legitimate expectation of privacy,” Welch said, whether it is on Facebook or Twitter.
He said that lower-wage people probably are more vulnerable to the potential invasion into their privacy. He said in some cases potential employees had been asked for passwords during job interviews.
Welch said that the bill failed to pass in the 2012 Congress because it wasn’t a high priority for political leaders faced with the so-called “fiscal cliff.”
And for the record: Welch said he didn’t have a personal Facebook account, although he declined to say he didn’t have one out of privacy concerns.
But he said that people should be careful of what they put on the Internet, “or it would end up on the front page of the New York Times or the Rutland Herald.”
Welch said that in his visits in Brattleboro on Thursday, people raised questions about impending cuts to social services mandated under the so-called “sequester” or across the board budget cuts.
People are also concerned about congressional gridlock, he said.