SNOPA Is One Internet Bill Worth Rooting For

    April 27, 2012

With the Internet exploding this morning at the news of CISPA passing the House, people may have put the bane of SOPA in the past. It turns out that SOPA was just the evil cousin of a much more benign technology bill that is very welcome in this climate of the government not caring about your privacy rights.

MSNBC got the scoop today on SNOPA, a bill that I’m going to start calling the Internet’s prince in shining armor. Pardon the hyperbole, but after CISPA, I’m willing to take anything. If you were wondering, SNOPA stands for Social Networking Online Protection Act. The bill does just as it describes – protects you from snooping employers and schools wanting access to your Facebook or other social media.

We covered the topic before, but it bears repeating just how bad of a problem this is. In short, it turns out that there’s a disturbing trend among American employers asking for applicants’ Facebook passwords. The reasoning is that they want to see what kind of person you are because your Facebook page is obviously a clear indicator of how you act in a professional setting.

Anyway, all this culminated in a statement from Facebook and civil rights groups, but it never really got anywhere. That is until New York Representative Eliot Engel introduced the bill today. MSNBC obtained a letter from Engel’s office that explains the bill and its goals:

“As you know, social media and networking has become such a widespread part of communications in our country, and around the globe. However, a person’s digital footprint is largely unprotected.

There have been countless examples of employers requiring an applicant to divulge their user name and password as part of the hiring process. Additionally, some universities, and even secondary schools, have required the student either divulge their personal information, or grant the institution access to the personal account by ‘friending’ the student. These coercive practices are unacceptable, and should be halted.

We have to draw a line between what is publicly available information, and what is personal, private content. I think we would all object to having to turn over usernames and passwords for email accounts, or even worse, to bank accounts. User-generated social media content should be no different.”

Now this is the kind of bill that should be supported by the House. Unfortunately, these same people rejected a previous attempt to amend an already existing bill that would ban the practice. I don’t see much hope for SNOPA especially after the House already decided to side against the citizens and their rights.

Still, it’s a first step and it may get us somewhere. It’s hard to remain optimistic, but there are wars to be fought against those who would seek to regulate the Internet and the freedom it stands for. Backing SNOPA would be one of those efforts that help protect users of the Internet from those who seek to use it for nefarious purposes, no matter how well intentioned they may be.

[h/t: The Next Web]