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Social media privacy bill needed, but isn't a big problem in Wisconsin

Laptop computer (Photo by: Dan Taylor from London, UK/Wikimedia Commons).
Laptop computer (Photo by: Dan Taylor from London, UK/Wikimedia Commons).

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - A state senator says employers snooping into personal Facebook accounts is not a big problem in Wisconsin – but there’s still a need to regulate it.

West Bend Republican Glenn Grothman is one of the main sponsors of a bill to prohibit the practice, except when employers need to investigate improper transmissions of confidential data.

The bill is up for a public hearing Tuesday in the Senate’s Judiciary Committee. It would prohibit employers from asking workers and job candidates for passwords to their social media accounts.

Some firms say they need to snoop to avoid trade secrets from getting out. Critics call it a blatant invasion of privacy.

Grothman says he wants to prevent, “a busy-body boss or busy-body college administrator – or a landlord for that matter – from looking at your private account.”

Fourteen states have approved such bans, and it’s pending in all 36 others.

The Wisconsin bill had an Assembly hearing in May, and both houses could vote on the measure next month.

Wisconsin’s workforce development agency is guessing it would have to investigate about 200 complaints a year that allege violations. Chris Reader of the state’s largest business group calls the bill an attempt to balance personal privacy with the needs of employers. 

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