Thursday, Vermont Senators voted to block employers from demanding access to a job applicant's personal computer, email account, or telephone. The move comes one day after the body decided to study rather than pursue similar social media protections.
"Nobody should extrapolate from that that anyone on the committee believes it's the right thing for any employer to do, because we don't, but we want to make sure that as we do it, we do it right," said Sen. Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland County. "The privacy of Vermonters, the privacy of all of us, is important and this is a small step forward."
The initial legislation proposed by Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington County, would have extended additional privacy protections for sites like Facebook. But several senators voiced concern with opening up the state to potential lawsuits.
"I think we ought to be a little concerned about-- if I may use the phrase-- being more Catholic than the pope," said Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Windham County.
Galbraith argued that the state leaves applicants open to probing beyond the depths required for top secret government clearance. Six states have moved to block employers from digitally spying on potential and current employees.
Vermont's senior U.S. senator, Patrick Leahy, is urging his colleagues in Washington, D.C., to act as well.
"I think we're going to see more and more bills having to do with personal privacy and the protection of that privacy," Sears said.
Sears says rapidly developing technology and some that have already arrived will keep privacy protection issues permanently on the Legislature's horizon.
The bill is expected to land in the House by the end of the week.