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Texas considers banning employers from Facebook snooping

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The great state of Texas is the latest to try to protect its residents' Internet privacy from grabby employers.

House Bill 318, Rep. Helen Giddings's (D-Dallas) so-called Social Media Bill, passed the Texas House Friday. It states that, barring a few specific exceptions, your email and social media passwords are off limits:

[A]n employer may not require or request that an employee or applicant for employment disclose a user name, password, or other means for accessing a personal account of the employee or applicant, including a personal e-mail account or a social networking website account or profile, through an electronic communication device.

Starting in the spring of 2012, some states, encouraged by civil liberties groups like the ACLU, began drafting such bills to protect citizens' online private lives from their bosses. Such bills grew more and more popular in light of horror stories like Kimberly Hester’s. Hester, a teacher's aide, was fired after her superintendent heard she made an uncouth joke on Facebook—she took a picture of her pants around her ankles, tagging a friend and writing "thinking of you"—and wouldn't let the principal check it out himself.

At least eight other states—Arkansas, California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Utah, and Washington, have attempted to pass similar laws.

If it passes, the Social Media Bill would become just the latest in a string of recent Internet-savvy Texas laws. One currently-pending bill would allow citizens to be served legal documents over social media. Another would require the government to get a warrant to track your movement through your digital devices.

“This is about protecting the privacy and freedom of speech of an individual," Giddings said of her bill.

Photo via Helen Giddings