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Oregon bans colleges from demanding student social media passwords

New legislation was passed in response to reports that athletic departments wanted access to incoming student-athletes' FB and Twitter accounts?


Justin Franz


Posted on Jun 5, 2013   Updated on Jun 1, 2021, 2:04 pm CDT

Oregon joined a growing number of states this week passing laws that ban colleges and universities from gaining access to students’ or prospective students’ social media accounts, The Oregonian reports. Senate Bill 344 is now headed for Gov. John Kitzhaber’s desk for a final signature.

The law comes just as Maryland, Illinois and other states are passing new laws banning employers from gaining access to private Facebook and Twitter accounts. Oregon’s House passed a similar bill in May. The Senate bill, aimed at students, came up after reports that some universities were asking athletes to give coaches access to their accounts. For example, according to NBC News, the University of North Carolina’s athletic handbook reads: “Each team must identify at least one coach or administrator who is responsible for having access to and regularly monitoring the content of team members’ social networking sites and postings.”

A similar instance in Maryland with the Department of Corrections lead to a complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union. Corrections officials argued that checking the Facebook page of potential prison guards was important to see if they had gang ties. The complaint lead to the department ending the practice and earlier this year, the state passed the first ever social media privacy law in the country.

Critics of the practice say it’s an infringement of people’s First Amendment rights.

“I can’t believe some people think it’s OK to do this,” lawyer Bradley Shear told NBC. “Maybe it’s OK if you live in a totalitarian regime, but we still have a Constitution to protect us. It’s not a far leap from reading people’s Facebook posts to reading their email. As a society, where are we going to draw the line?”

It’s also against Facebook’s Terms of Service, which states users can not give anyone else access to their account that might jeopardize security.

While the Oregon bill bans universities from asking for Facebook passwords, it does not address the policy of requiring students to “friend” coaches. Rep. Margaret Doherty told the Oregonian that will be addressed later this year in a legislative workgroup.

“We have a consensus bill that will protect student privacy,” she said.  

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*First Published: Jun 5, 2013, 1:42 pm CDT