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Will job applicants have to surrender Facebook passwords?

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

What would you say if your boss asked you for your Facebook password? Spending the day asking Houstonians that question I was certainly given a few choice words. I don't think any of those words will unlock a Facebook account.

This whole topic sparked because the U.S. House of Representatives had the chance to make it illegal for employers to ask employees for their social media passwords and the lawmakers actually voted against it.

So the big question is can your boss legally ask you for your Facebook password? "He could ask me but I don't have to give it to him," says Houstonian Lawrence Tran. Actually, you do.

"In Texas employers can request access to your Facebook account," explains Labor and Employment Attorney Larry Stuart. He says only about a hand full of states have laws banning bosses from being able to ask for your social media passwords and Texas isn't one of them.

"California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Maryland, New Jersey and a couple more," Stuart explains.

"I only use Facebook for personal purposes. So there's no connection at all. So that wouldn't make any sense at all. I wouldn't give anybody, let alone my boss, my password to Facebook," argues Tran.

"I wouldn't want my business and my social life to collide. I don't think that's right," says Houstonian Kimberley Cotton.

Lawmakers passed a broad federal cyber security bill under the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act but blocked a measure that would have banned employers from requiring employees to give up their social media passwords. Stuart says let this be a reminder to you.

"It's easy to punch out twenty words and shoot it off without thinking about the consequence. That's what electronic media really does. It preserves that stuff that was meant to be a fleeting moment," Stuart adds.

As an attorney for nearly twenty years, Stuart says for the first time in his career he's seeing a workers' own words and even some comments written by strangers used against employees and job applicants.

"Putting comments on Facebook about we are charging too much for our customers. One company had made an offer and then they discovered the applicant had written some sexually provocative stories on-line. Another man up for an executive position (was told) there's a posting on Yahoo about you that's pretty bad and they want to understand this business about you being a cross dresser. I think we forget sometimes digital means forever," says Stuart. He says he's also seeing workers getting sued by former employers for "non-compete" contract violations after their new job position is posted on-line and execs at the old job see they are now working for the competition.

People are all over Facebook protesting bosses having the right to snoop on their social media. Many are asking 'how does what I put on-line have to do with how well I perform my job?'. Well, Stuart says your social media posts don't necessarily reveal your job capability but could tell how well you would represent the company.

There is a bill pending in the Texas legislature that would protect a worker's right to refuse to give their boss their password.

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