Australian public servants and other workers need legal protection to stop bosses violating their online privacy, according to a US expert.
Lawyer Bradley Shear says that increasing numbers of US states are enacting laws that protect the social media profiles of workers from snooping by their employers.
Mr Shear has help draft the Social Networking Online Protection Act, currently before Congress, which he says will act as a legal protection for his nation’s federal employees for their activities on social media.
The bill, if passed, will stop the growing practice of employers and even colleges and universities demanding user names and passwords for the social media profiles of prospective employees and students.
Similar laws have been adopted by 13 US states and 36 another states are in the process of legislating.
Mr Shear told Fairfax that he had noted with interest the growing number of Australians, particularly in the public sector, in trouble with their bosses over alleged online activities.
The most recent case, reported by Fairfax this month, is of a public servant in the Department of Foreign Affairs who looks certain for the sack, accused of involvement in a Facebook page that allegedly sent threatening and “defamatory” messages to senior departmental figures and politicians.
Clashes over social media between public servants and their bosses are becoming more commonplace.
Immigration Department official Michaela Banerji lost a court appeal this month, opening the way for her to be sacked by her department for "highly critical" material posted on Twitter.
Taxation Office worker Darryl Adams was punished last year for using a satirical Twitter account to describe an anti-porn activist as "rootable in that religious feminist way".
Mr Shear told US media that it was unacceptable for employers to try to interfere in the online lives of their workers.
“The national legislation that I have been advocating for will in general protect the privacy of personal digital accounts for most federal employees,” the Maryland–based lawyer said.
“I believe that the same privacy protections a government employee has off line should be extended online.
“Our personal contacts, communications with our significant other, our hopes, and our dreams may be contained in our cloud based accounts and absent a court order this information should be off limits to the government.”
“The bottom line is that I want future generations to experience the same privacy protections I had while growing up and unless more people take a stand to protect our digital privacy we will lose it.”