Maryland Takes Center Stage In Facebook Privacy Debate

JESSUP, Md. (WJZ) — The debate over Facebook privacy takes center stage in Maryland.  For the first time anywhere in the country, some government workers claim the state demanded their Facebook passwords and then pried into their personal lives.

Adam May reports the practice just came to a halt.

Robert Collins was a corrections officer at the Patuxent Institution in Jessup.  He claims state officials violated his rights after he returned from a leave of absence. 

“During a background check, my Facebook account was accessed by a Department of Correction investigator who logged on using my email and password,” Collins said.  “I was disgusted, appalled.  I was shocked more than anything.”

“It seemed to me a truly invasive practice,” said Deborah Jeon, ACLU.

It was alarming to lawyers at the ACLU, a civil rights watchdog.  They claim the practice—affecting countless employees for years—also infringes on the rights of state workers’ Facebook friends.

“Email communications may have been intended to be private with him and now the government is able to review those communications, as well,” Jeon said.

State officials claim the Facebook checks were meant to stop gang infiltration into prisons but now the Department of Correction has launched an internal investigation telling WJZ they just suspended the process for 45 days to review their procedures.

“It’s such a welcome development to have policy suspended and hopefully it will be a permanent discontinuation of this policy,” Jeon said.

Collins hopes he gets back to work soon.

“I believe this is a first step in a positive direction, but it’s one of many required steps to repeal this thing indefinitely,” he said.

State officials would not speak on camera but in a statement, they claim giving up Facebook passwords was voluntary.  Collins says he wasn’t given an option.

Collins is scheduled to return to work later this year.

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  • seashell

    If you don’t want the world to know you’re personal life etc; don’t set up an account with Facebook & Twitter. Simple as that. I have no need nor obsession to Face or Twit. It’s called the phone where you actualy converse with one another verbally.

    • Rusty

      Your statement is moronic. If you are saying they have a right to reach into your personal life then whether it is facebook, twitter, email, or even using your example a phone call then they could just as easily do it. They were not reviewing employees public profile. They were accessing private and personal information. Regardless of the medium the issue is the invasion of privacy.

      Get a clue.

    • I eat seashells

      Are you serious seashell? So would you mind if I had your bank account information and a key to your house too since you basically just said it was okay for the state to do this? What an idiot.

      • Suraj Samaroo

        I dont think its right for ANYONE to pry into other peoples PERSONAL life! What you do when you are on your time is and should be your business.

    • DKVNY

      Oh that’s so 90’s….get into the real world would you…hahaha

  • Proud Sailor's Mom

    That is a totally idiotic statement seashell!! How would you like the government reading the mail you have delivered to your house before you get it? Or listening in on your phone calls? It’s the same thing! An invasion of privacy!! Facebook may not be your thing, but that doesn not make it ok for those of us who do use it to have our privacy invaded in such a manner! The government needs to stay out of our personal lives! This needs to be nipped in the bud or there is no telling where it will stop!!

    • Dave

      What makes you think the government is not reading your stuff now?

  • Richard Cranium

    But you have the need to post a public comment on WJZ’s page that is public,. Which is still communicating via internet with text. Not verbally, i’m sure you would sing an entirely different tune if the government were indeed looking into your bank accounts/ looking at your statements to see where your money is going to make sure that you as a government employee are not funding organizations that are less than credible. You should join twitter, you are indeed a twit.

    • I eat seashells


      I am not sure seashell knows what you are talking about so to clear things up a twit is a foolish or annoying person!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Word on the street is the state government is tapping his phones and checking his mail daily, but he is okay with that!

  • Zeph

    Wake up fools, we’re ALL being sped on constantly.
    Thay have nothing better to do.

    • Big Brother's Watching

      You got that right Zeph. There is no privacy. Make sure you do not break the law and watch what you say.

  • scolarola

    one apple always spoil the whole bunch and it’s sad but so true,now they wanna check everything thoroughly and now the good has to suffer cause of the bad if they do it from the beginning it wouldn’t have gotten this far to the point of going into people private life

  • Lady Shirley

    I agree with “seashell”. Don’t sign up on those sites & REFUSE to give your password to anyone! If someone demands your password, ask them why then inform them it is your right, as the “owner” of that site to be safe and again, REFUSE to give them your password. If they insist, seek legal advice. As “seashell” said, it really is as simple as that! I, however, do have a facebook site, but I am smart enough NOT to post any personal details that can be stolen and I give my password to no one. There are ways to remain safe online…if all else fails, use common sense!

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