While Congress and other states debate the issue, Maryland has become the first government to make it illegal for employers to ask job applicants and employees for access to their social media accounts, or to retaliate for their refusing to do so. The law takes effect Oct. 1, 2012.

The Maryland ACLU brought the issue to light and challenged the practice when seven job applicants were not hired by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services after surrendering their Facebook usernames and passwords. The department said it was searching for gang affiliations, but finding none, it still found cause on Facebook not to hire the seven. The department later voluntarily dropped the practice.

Other states with similar pending legislation include New York, New Jersey, Michigan, California, Illinois, Washington, Minnesota, Missouri and South Carolina.

For its part, Facebook says that sharing login information is banned by its terms of service (TOS) and that no one should comply with such a request.