I have been following an interesting situation in Maryland for a while now. The Department of Corrections is requiring, for new employees and those re-certifying, complete access to potential employee’s Facebook accounts. This doesn’t just mean Maryland wants privacy settings to be set so it can review potentially public information, it means Maryland wants to be able to log in as the account owner and actually see everything, including personal messages normally never available to someone outside the account.
Apparently this situation came to light in the case of Corrections Officer Robert Collins who is in the process of re-certifying as an employee. Officer Collins approached the ACLU which is asking the M-DOC to stop and likely will sue on on Officer Collins’ behalf.
Office Collins states, “My fellow officers and I should not have to allow the government to view our personal Facebook posts and those of our friends, just to keep our jobs.”
On the part of the Department of Corrections, the goal is make sure that employees are not engaged in illegal activities or communicating with known criminals. Or so says an article from CNet. Since the Department of Corrections has not yet responded to the ACLU’s letter, it is difficult to know more about the reasoning behind the effort to review private information in Facebook accounts.
I am very concerned at the idea of forcing someone, as part of a state job, to give complete access to what are clearly meant to be private messages as well as any other private items contained within the account itself.
I also question the legality of the demand given (1) we are dealing with a state actor and (2) Facebook has made it clear handing over content in civil matters is a violation of the Stored Computer Act. (See my blog posts on the subject here and here.)
In addition, I question the usefulness of the demand, since it is very easy to delete information on Facebook forever.
Last, let’s keep in mind not only will the information of the potential or currently employee be shared, but private correspondence from Facebook friends of that individual will be accessible to the M-DOC as well.
Some would say, well don’t apply for the job then. But the economy being what it is, and again, the fact this is a state actor, make me think that answer is not applicable in this case.
What do you think?