Oregon

Oregon Bill Would Guard Students' Facebook Passwords

AP | April 23, 2013 8:57 a.m. | Updated: April 23, 2013 10:02 a.m. | Portland

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Universities and community colleges would be barred from requiring students or prospective students to provide login information for their Facebook and other social media accounts under a bill passed unanimously by the Senate on the Monday.

It now goes to the House.

Under Senate Bill 344, public universities and community colleges in Oregon could not compel or require students to turn over passwords and other login information. Kindergarten, elementary and secondary schools are not included.

As part of an investigation involving illegal activity, a school could ask a student to provide a password or share content from their social media accounts. Universities are not prohibited from viewing and accessing information shared publically on students’ social media accounts.

“Senate Bill 344 strikes a good balance between student privacy and legitimate information needs of colleges and universities,” said Sen. Ginny Burdick, a Portland Democrat and the bill’s sponsor.

Lawmakers say the bill is a pre-emptive measure to protect Oregon students from unwarranted checks on their personal accounts.

“This is really our privacy laws keeping up with what’s out there,” said Sen. Tim Knopp, a Bend Republican.

There have been news reports of universities requiring student-athletes to share their social media account information with the coaching staff, although it is unclear how often this occurs.

In 2010, following a NCAA investigation into improper benefits within the football program, the University of North Carolina instated a policy requiring athletes to “register” social media information with a compliance office. The school’s 2012-13 student-athlete handbook states athletes must identify at least one coach or administrator who is responsible for having access to and monitoring the content of their social media accounts.

Oregon’s bill provides a broad definition of social media, covering any electronic medium that allow users to “create, share and view user-generated content.” This includes uploading and downloading videos, photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant messages, emails and social media profiles such as Facebook and Twitter.

A companion bill, barring employers from asking employees and job applicants to turn over login information for their Facebook and other social media accounts, passed the House last week.

Legislation to ban employers from accessing an employee’s personal accounts has been introduced or is pending in at least 35 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Like Oregon, a handful of states are considering additional legislation that would keep universities from requiring students to turn over their passwords and login information for their social media accounts.

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