Measure Protecting Privacy of Employees’ Social Media Passwords Vetoed by Hawaii Governor

Thursday, July 14, 2016

By Nicholas Fillmore, Courthouse News Service


HONOLULU (CN) — Hawaii Gov. David Ige vetoed a measure Monday that would have barred employers from forcing employees to hand over their social media passwords.


Touted by advocates as a model for laws in other states, HB 1739 nonetheless raised enforcement questions.


"The Department [of Labor and Industrial Relations], its divisions or attached agencies do not currently have the staff, resources, or expertise to administer this measure," Ige said.


He added, "The department has no data as to the number of cases occurring currently or in the past and is struggling with case backlogs in other areas."


ACLU Advocacy and Policy Counsel Chad Marlow disagreed with the governor's optimistic assessment of the current climate.


"Remember where we are right now," Marlow said. "A private employer can say 'I want to see your Facebook account or you're fired.' It happens all the time. Google it. There are hundreds of cases; not just employees or potential employees, but students, tenants who are required by landlords to hand over their passwords.


"This is a major front in the fight for free speech in this country. Social media has no First Amendment protection. This bill would go a long way toward changing that."


Marlow praised the legislative process that produced the bill, which he said has been a model for legislation in a number of other states.


"The carve-outs for investigations are narrowly tailored," Marlow said, referring to compromise language in the bill that would have limited employer investigations into unauthorized data transfers to specific targets.


The bill was written with significant input from the State Privacy and Security Coalition, local businesses and civil rights advocates. It passed both state houses unanimously before being forwarded to the governor.


Marlow lamented the prospect of the bill's veto in a phone conversation.


"This is a case of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. This bill is not a step, but a leap in the right direction," he said.


None of the bill's sponsors replied to requests for comment.


To Learn More:

Legislature Wants Social Media Passwords to be Off-Limits (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)


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