How much access should employers and schools have over their employees and students? Bill L.D. 1194, currently pending in the Maine legislature, would restrict employers access to employees social media accounts, as well as the accounts of elementary, high school, and college students. The bill was originally introduced in March 2013 but was carried over into 2014.
One potential problem with this bill lies in the financial industry. The Financial Industry Regulation Authority (FINRA), an oversight group that licenses brokers and regulates the securities industry, requires securities firms to oversee their employees business communications, specifically including social media accounts. If, for instance, a securities broker messaged a client on Twitter or solicited clients via LinkedIN, the securities firm would be obligated under FINRA’s directives to record that communication. The goal of this is to maintain a regulated financial industry where no “secret” communications or deals are being commenced.
A securities industry trade group, the Securities Industry Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), has filed a letter with the Maine legislature asking them to write an exception into the law for securities companies to comply with FINRA and other regulatory directives. They believe that many employees use a personal social media account for both personal AND business related goals and that the employers must have access to those accounts. Illinois enacted a similar law this past summer, with exceptions for the broker-dealer employers
This shows FINRA and the securities brokers take social media accounts seriously and showcase how they play a role in the securities trade. It is a thin line between privacy and 1st amendment rights on one side, and the need to regulate an important industry in American economics. It is also interesting to note that without the exception, the law in Maine may create an unbalanced securities industry and force brokers to choose between following FINRA directives and state law.
In this case, I believe the employee’s privacy is not something that should be expected. If using social media, it makes sense to create a personal account and a business account. The employer, however, must trust the employee is not using their personal account for business purposes.
Source: Bloomberg Law: Securities