Protecting your privacy: Facebook Bill

WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- When filling out a job application, you give your name, address and sometimes birthdate, but what if you were also required to give up your Facebook password. It's already happening here in Washington, but perhaps not for much longer.

State Senator Steven Hobbs hopes his Facebook Bill will be the end to what many call an invasion of privacy and others call a valuable tool.

With a couple taps of the keyboard, Tim Bennett is on his Facebook page, and could be on a potential hire's.

"As a background investigator having the ability to get into those websites is very beneficial," said the Walla Walla officer. "It's a really good tool to have in my box." But it's likely Tim Bennett's box will get downsized soon. A new bill that's making its way to the State House would stop him from asking for the Facebook password of any potential or current employee.

"It's especially important when you're doing an investigation on an applicant who's out of town," he said. "You don't know anything about them, other than what's put down on their application."

The problem, says Senator Steve Hobbs, a Facebook password can show everything. By giving employers the ability to log into your social site, they can find things you wouldn't put on an application like sexual orientation, religion and political affiliation.

"I felt like it's your Facebook, MySpace, your social network and your employer shouldn't have the right to demand you hand over your password," Hobbs told KEPR. The "Facebook Bill" passed unanimously in the senate, but before it hits the house floor, Hobbs said one group is trying to get an exemption; that group is WACO, Washington Association of County Officials.

Hobbs said a WACO lobbyist contact him to try and change the bill. WACO wanted to add an exemption for law enforcement, said Hobbs. That exemption would give local authorities, from council members to mayors and even county commissioners the ability to demand social networking passwords from employees. Hobbs' said that idea is not one he supports.

"Law enforcement officers go through background checks, civil service tests, psych testsI didn't think it was necessary to go through an officers Facebook page," he said.

Former military himself, Hobbs said his top secret clearance doesn't even require any social networking passwords. "There's no way I was going to run that amendment," he said.

Although Bennett says using Facebook logins with new hires can be beneficial, he thinks the amendment WACO supports is too far reaching. "This is no different than being asked to turn over your journal or diary," he said. "Having been a cop for 27 years, why should I have fewer rights than Joe Citizen next door."

Senator Hobbs says he expects there to be a fight when the bill hits the house floor between WACO and WACOPS. He's confident that the "Facebook Bill" will go through without an amendment, protecting residents across the state.