Hawaii Irons Out Workplace Social-Media Privacy Bill

     HONOLULU (CN) – The Hawaii state Senate Judicial Committee voted unanimously to adopt HB1739, a bill supporters claim will prevent employers from prying into their employees’ social media accounts.
     But the bill also provides a pretext for employers to demand employee passwords in the case of a suspected data breach.
     In its original form, the bill would have required employers to immediately dump employee data inadvertently collected by network firewalls. But the State Privacy and Security Coalition, a Washington lobby encouraged amending the bill to include “narrow exceptions” to prevent unauthorized transfer of proprietary business information and to allow employers to investigate such claims.
     The House Labor Committee amended the bill to include the coalition’s concerns last month.
     The coalition reiterated those concerns to the judiciary committee, noting that the bill should strike a balance between the need for personal privacy and corporate security. Attorneys for Facebook agreed and urged committee members to adopt amendments written into the bill.
     The amended section of the bill, which appears to be on the fast track to becoming law, states, “Nothing shall prevent an employer from conducting an investigation or requiring an employee to cooperate in an investigation, including by requiring an employee to share the content that has been reported to make a factual determination, if the employer has specific information about an unauthorized transfer of the employer’s proprietary information, confidential information, or financial data, to an employee’s personal account.”
     Judiciary Committee chair Gilbert Keith-Agaran, D-Maui, seemed happy with the changes and said “the committee will work with the State Privacy Coalition to clean up the language of the bill,” which the coalition touted as the basis for groundbreaking legislation in Washington state and Oregon.
     But public testimony ignored the proposed amendments, focusing instead on a clause slipped into the bill that would prohibit employers from requesting employees to interact on social media. David M. Louie, former Attorney General of Hawaii and attorney with and representing Facebook with the firm Kobayashi, Sugita & Goda, said the bill “as written casts too wide a net. There are many legitimate reasons an employer might make a friend request to an employee through Facebook or other social media.”
     The Society for Resource Management, the ACLU of Hawaii, Facebook and the coalition all urged the committee to strike the clause, and lawmakers agreed.
     After the next reading, the bill appears headed to the Ways and Means Committee.

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