Two More U.S. States Ban Employer Demands for Workers’ Social Media Passwords

After a measure submitted to Congress stalled, states stepped in

2 min read
Two More U.S. States Ban Employer Demands for Workers’ Social Media Passwords

On 1 January, statutes went into effect in California and Illinois that make it illegal for employers to demand that employees or job seekers reveal their social-media passwords as a condition of employment. Four other states already bar the practice; Delaware was the first, back in July, followed by Maryland, Michigan, and New Jersey.

The six legislatures took action after Facebook went public last March with news that workers were being ambushed at job interviews or threatened by supervisors. So the underlying reality is that in 44 states employers can still strong-arm workers with the ever more frequent demand: Show us the private parts of your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts or you can’t work here.

Organizations committed to preserving individual privacy had been pinning their hopes for a nationwide fix on a bill submitted to Congress last year that would restrict employers’ ability to force workers to make a choice between dignity a paycheck. According to the U.S. federal government website, the Password Protection Act of 2012 (H.R. 5684), which was introduced on 9 May, was sent to the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee that same day. The bill apparently was then whisked into a witness protection program, because it hasn’t reappeared, and if its provisions ever show up again, it’ll be under a different name.

“I’d be surprised if it isn’t reintroduced at some point,” Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington, D.C., Legislative Office, told IEEE Spectrum. “The bill’s sponsors," he said, "remain committed to dealing with this issue.”

Asked why so many states have yet to enact laws in the mold of those on the books in Delaware, et al., Calabrese explained that many states, whose legislatures operate inside a small window early in the year, are just now entering the first legislative sessions since the issue made news last year. In South Dakota, for example, legislators will remain in session from 8 January only until the end of March. “Six states is actually an amazing response,” says Calabrese. We’re likely to see other states take this up in the next few months.”


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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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