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Two interesting stories popped up this week about social media and job employment. It is well known that employers now routinely check social media web sites for information concerning prospective employees. But now two governmental agencies - one state, one local - are going a bit further.

According to this story yesterday at the Baltimore Sun, a Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) officer was required to turn over his password to Facebook as part of his job interview. This officer complied with the request, but thought it was an unfair request that invaded his privacy.

So the officer complained to the American Civil Liberties Union, which in turn made an inquiry to the Division of Corrections. As a result, the Baltimore Sun reported, the head of the Secretary of the DPSCS Gary Maynard said that the practice would be suspended for 45 days until the policy could be reviewed.

In a letter to the ACLU from Secretary Maynard which the Baltimore Sun quoted, he said:

"The department's efforts to explore an applicant's behavior on social media networks stems not from a desire to invade personal privacy, but rather from a legitimate and serious concern with the infiltration of gangs into our prisons... I am sure you would agree that permitting applicants who engage in illegal activities, or have gang affiliations, to be employed as correctional officers compromises the safety of all inmates and employees within our prison walls."

In a television interview last night on Fox News WTTG 5 in Washington, DC, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler said it was legal and proper to ask prospective Maryland state government employees for passwords to social media sites if there was a compelling state interest to do so.

AG Gansler, however, also said the practice should be limited, and that most government departments and agencies could gather prospective employee data by other means such as conducting more extensive background checks.

But as AG Gansler undoubtedly knows, conducting extensive background checks take time and costs money. It is a lot simpler and less expensive for governmental organizations just to demand a person's social media passwords.

In addition, since each government department or agency gets to define what is meant by "compelling state interest," the decision about who should be compelled to give up their social media can be pretty elastic.

Which takes us to a story also from yesterday published at Fox News WOFL 35 in Orlando, Florida.

Fox News 35 reports that the Norman, Oklahoma Police Department wants its prospective police officers to provide their passwords to social media sites as part of their background check as well.

The Fox story quotes Captain Tom Easley from the Norman Oklahoma Police Department as saying:

"We generally ask the applicant for their password so we can really drill down and see exactly what they're posting . . . We're actually hiring based on the quality of a person and you judge that through a variety of tools including a background investigation that talks to previous employers to friends to relatives to neighbors and up to and including their Facebook account . . . You're investing these individuals that you hire with the legal authority to arrest people and in the worst case scenario take someone's life."

So, do Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler and Norman Oklahoma Police Captain Tom Easley have compelling arguments for obtaining a prospective government employee's social media passwords or not?

If so, where do you draw the line?

And is this the proverbial "thin edge of the wedge" for all employers, government or not? Can't the same "compelling public interest" argument be made for numerous commercial occupations as well, such as airline pilot, school bus driver, etc.?

The Conversation (0)

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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