TRENTON – The prime sponsor of two bills to protect social media users from having to divulge passwords to employers or higher-education officials said they are straightforward measures necessitated by evolving technology.
The Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee advanced both bills – A2878 and A2879 – presented by John Burzichelli, (D-3), West Deptford.
“All of us have watched technology evolve around us,” Burzichelli told the panel this morning. “A password is the key to the house.’’
He said these bills would update ground rules that govern what an employer can pursue. He said that Maryland has become the first state to advance such legislation through both houses and it awaits that governor’s action.
Before the panel cleared the bills today – 3-0 with DiAnne Gove, (R-9), Forked River, abstaining in each case – several witnesses asked for amendments.
On behalf of N.J. Bankers Association, Vice President Michael Affuso and counsel Mary Kay Roberts sought a change to ensure that certain financial agencies could still have access to information involving employees such as broker/dealers.
They said that such employers are already subject to either federal or state laws as well as self-regulatory agencies, and as a result, must have access to the information.
They used an example of a broker divulging sensitive financial data and the company being exposed to potential liability. They said other states have considered similar language in their own legislation.
Stefanie Riehl, an assistant vice president of the N.J. Association of Business and Industry, and Michael Egenton, senior vice president of Government Relations for the N.J. Chamber of Commerce, commended Burzichelli for tackling a difficult issue, but raised concerns that as worded, the bill would prevent employers from even asking about a Facebook account.
They said the bill will create a new avenue for people to sue employers, and told the committee employers need to have the ability to protect themselves.
Speaking in favor of the bill were Rosemary Bernardi of the Evesham Township School Board and Lynn Nowak of the ACLU.
Nowak said the ACLU of New Jersey would like to see a portion of the bill that would “carve out” law enforcement personnel from the bill’s protections be removed.
“They should have the same privacy rights as anyone else,’’ she said.
Patrick Diegnan, (D-18), South Plainfield said that “the issue that’s going to face future generations is privacy.”
Burzichelli told the committee he felt the bills were uncomplicated and straightforward, but Paul Moriarty, (D-4), Turnersville indicated to witnesses the suggested amendments deserve some consideration as the bill moves forward.