November 14, 2013

Americans Oppose Turning Over Social Media Passwords to Bosses, Says New Survey

EAGAN, Minn. – Americans overwhelmingly oppose allowing their bosses to obtain their social media passwords. That’s the finding of a new survey from, the most popular legal information website.

According to the survey, eighty-three percent of American adults say that employers should not be allowed to obtain passwords to personal social media accounts, such as Facebook and YouTube. Only seven percent of people surveyed said it was okay for employers to have their social network passwords. Ten percent were unsure. The survey also found that only three percent of American adults say that an employer has ever asked them to turn over their social media passwords.

Some employers argue that access to personal accounts is needed to protect proprietary information or trade secrets, to comply with federal financial regulations, or to prevent the employer from being exposed to legal liabilities. But others consider requiring access to personal Internet accounts an invasion of employee privacy.

A scan of pending and newly enacted legislation shows at least ten states have passed laws that prevent employers from requesting passwords to personal Internet accounts in order to get or keep a job, according to Westlaw and the National Association of State Legislatures. Legislation has been introduced or is pending in at least twenty-six additional states. Similar legislation was introduced in Congress earlier this year but failed to pass.

In addition, some states have similar legislation to prevent public colleges and universities from obtaining access to students’ social networking accounts.

“Employers’ access to personal information on social network sites is an increasingly controversial subject,” said Stephanie Rahlfs, an attorney-editor at “Many people are sensitive that information regarding their personal lives should not be available to their employers. In addition, if an employer, while viewing an employee’s social media page, were to discover information regarding an employee’s protected characteristics, such as religious preferences or confidential medical information, it could open the door for potential legal issues.”

Information on employee rights can be found at free websites such as the FindLaw Employment Law Center (

The FindLaw survey was conducted using a demographically balanced survey of 1,000 American adults and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percent.

Note to editors: Full survey results and analysis are available upon request.


FindLaw, part of Thomson Reuters, is a leading provider of business development solutions for small law firms. Through its team of legal marketing experts, FindLaw drives the industry by delivering a comprehensive portfolio of proven online and offline marketing solutions designed to connect law firms with targeted prospective clients. FindLaw is also home to the largest online directory of lawyers and (, the most popular legal website with more than six million people visiting each month for free information about a legal topic, to solve a legal problem or to find a lawyer.

Thomson Reuters

Thomson Reuters is the world's leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals.  We combine industry expertise with innovative technology to deliver critical information to leading decision makers in the financial, legal, tax and accounting, healthcare and science and media markets, powered by the world's most trusted news organization.  With headquarters in New York and major operations in London and Eagan, Minnesota, Thomson Reuters employs approximately 60,000 people and operates in over 100 countries.  For more information, go to