He swears he works to bring freedom to his constituents.
But earlier this week, Rep. Tim Scott voted in big-government fashion to deny citizens a freedom that’s as basic as protection of a personal password.
As a result of this vote from Scott and other Republicans, it’s now a-okay for companies to make employees and job applicants reveal their passwords to social media websites. A boss can sign in to a worker’s or applicant’s account, see who her “friends” are, and check out any comments she made. If the worker/applicant refuses (or if the boss doesn’t like what he sees)? Goodbye, job.
Scott joined in with other Republicans to block a key amendment to H.R. 3309, the FCC Reform Act. Sponsored by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), the appropriately-titled “Mind Your Own Business on Passwords” bill sought to “prohibit licensees or regulated entities from mandating that job applicants or employees disclose confidential passwords to social networking web sites.”
But it wasn’t just Tim Scott. And it wasn’t just all of South Carolina’s five Republican congressional representatives, who also voted to block the amendment, either. It was the just about the entire GOP behind it all.
In fact, all but one Republican congressman (North Carolina’s Rep. Walter Jones) voted against this bill, which was defeated 236-184.
This subject of social media privacy in the workplace started earlier this year, when media reported that a Maryland prison guard was required to reveal his Facebook password in a December 2011 job interview.
Not only was this requirement an invasion of the man’s privacy, as he himself witnessed while his employers surfed through his personal Facebook page and that of his family and friends, but it also seemed to be a violation of federal law pertaining to “unlawful access to stored communications,” too.
The ACLU argued against this practice, insisting that privacy be protected. National media took it up, adding other people who told the same tale.
The public sentiment in favor of protected privacy apparently didn’t reach the ears of House Republicans, however.
So where does this issue stand now? Hopefully, on unsteady ground.
Senate Democrats recently asked the U.S. Attorney General’s office to see if this practice violates the existing “unlawful access to stored communications” law, and also asked the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate.
The public sentiment against this privacy restriction isn’t silencing, either. For example, Republicans and Democrats in Minnesota’s state legislature introduced bills in both houses to block employer access to employees’ social media passwords. A similar bill is working its way through Maryland’s state government, too.
But what can you do meanwhile? Well, you might want to be cautious of what you post on Facebook, that’s for sure.
On your next visit, however, be sure to visit Tim Scott’s page, and let him know what you think of his vote to violate your freedom of privacy.