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Hawaii senators advance social-media privacy bill

Anita Hofschneider, Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) -- Two state Senate committees in Hawaii have approved a bill to prohibit employers from requiring employees or job applicants to provide access to personal social media accounts.

The senators voted Wednesday to advance the measure, which already passed the House.

The American Civil Liberties Union says the bill would ensure that legal privacy protections keep pace with changing technology.

Barbara Duarte, a nurse, testified previously that employees at Maui hospital were written up for comments made on Facebook in 2011. She says the bill would protect privacy and free speech.

But several members of Hawaii's business community had concerns about the proposal.

The state Chamber of Commerce says the bill is well-intentioned but that the issue isn't a prevalent problem in Hawaii.

The Maui Police Department also opposed the measure, saying it would limit the department's ability to conduct background checks.

The department suggested amending the bill to allow employers to ask about usernames for social media accounts but not passwords.

The committee adopted the department's suggestion as well as amendments proposed by several businesses to make sure the proposal won't interfere with human resources or cybersecurity practices.

The bill now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Hawaii's proposal follows the example of similar legislation in other states.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says six states — California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan and New Jersey — passed legislation last year preventing employers or academic institutions from accessing social media accounts.

The organization says Hawaii is one of 29 states considering legislation related to social media privacy this year.