Hawaii Tackles Workplace Social-Media Privacy

     HONOLULU (CN) – A law that would bar employers from prying into employees’ social media accounts with few exceptions is moving through the Hawaii state Legislature.
     An amended HB 1739 recently passed the Hawaii House and has gone to the Aloha State’s Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold a public hearing on March 23.
     The bill, introduced by Rep. Matthew LoPresti, D-Ewa, and 18 co-sponsors, says an employer “shall not require, request, or coerce an employee or potential employee to disclose the username, password, or any other information for the purpose of accessing the employee or potential employee’s personal account.”
     “We need to expand our notions of privacy to include social interaction on the Internet,” LoPresti said.
     In its original form the bill also required employers to immediately dump employee data inadvertently collected by network firewalls.
     Citing “security” concerns, utilities monopoly Hawaiian Electric Company testified the bill would “limit sharing of cybersecurity data for analysis purposes with subject-matter experts, law enforcement, and cybersecurity vendors,” and “impact routine monitoring functions and impair cybersecurity investigatory efforts.”
     And Jim Halpert, writing on behalf of the Washington lobby group State Privacy and Security Coalition, noted the need for “narrow exceptions” to the bill’s protections, specifically the need to prevent unauthorized transfer of proprietary business information, and to allow employers to investigate such claims.
     The Labor and Public Employment Committee subsequently amended the measure by removing provisions requiring an employer to immediately delete inadvertently captured personal account data and inserted much of the language of Halpert’s testimony to exempt employers “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.”
     According to Halpert, an attorney with DLA Piper and a data-security adviser, such amendments are based on compromises in social-media laws in Oregon and Washington state and have been included in almost every state employee social-media law since.
     The ACLU chapter of Hawaii, High Tech Development Corp., Hawaii Human Rights Commission, ILWU Local 142, UNITE HERE Local 5 and the LGBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii and others voiced support of the bill.
     But the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce questioned the need for the bill and voiced concern over “unintended consequences.”
     Besides addressing employees’ use of social media, the bill extends protection to those who miss work because of National Guard duty, those who owe child support, those who breastfeed a child in the workplace, and employees with credit issues.
     Hawaii joins 13 other states that introduced similar legislation this year. Currently, 23 states already have laws pertaining to employers’ access of employees’ social media.
     A public hearing on the measure will be held on March 23 at 9:00 a.m. in conference room 016 at the Hawaii State Capitol.

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