My Facebook Password for a Job? There Oughta Be a Law!

New legislation would ban U.S. employers from requiring disclosure of social media passwords as a condition of employment

2 min read
My Facebook Password for a Job? There Oughta Be a Law!

Job seekers already feel like they are under a microscope—prospective employers might be examining the way they write, sit, speak, and dress. But now, some employers are increasing the magnification, seeking to look beyond work histories and career trajectories to get glimpses of job candidates' personal lives.

A stunning trend has seen employers, not satisfied with the portraits of job candidates provided by interviews and publicly available social networking profiles, boldly asking prospective employees to reveal the passwords to these sites so that interviewers can explore sections that would otherwise be inaccessible. Some job seekers, desperate for employment and fearing that they would no longer be considered for the positions for which they’ve applied, have reluctantly acquiesced.

But there has been a huge outcry from groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has asked the U.S. Congress to enact a federal law that would bar employers from making such requests. “We need a bright line rule—if it’s behind a password, that means keep out, whether you’re an employer, a school or the government,” the ACLU
 said in a statement attached to an online petition on its website that urges the U.S. Congress to act. The efforts of the ACLU and other privacy advocates led to the introduction, on 27 April, of the Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA).  SNOPA would bar employers from: demanding that prospective or current employees reveal passwords; asking workers to type passwords in so an employer can gain momentary access; or pressuring employees into “friending,” so that the employer gains more extensive access to the employee’s private postings.

Some states such as Maryland and New York have already reacted to the situation by enacting similar statutes. On 2 May, Maryland became the first state to ban employers from asking for social media passwords. But a federal law would prevent a legal patchwork where some employees and job candidates maintain a right to privacy while others are effectively stripped of it.

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Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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