I-Team: Who's snooping on social media?

At least in Rhode Island, it is still legal for employers to monitor their employees' social media accounts.

A bill to bar employers from asking employees for their passwords to sites like Facebook and Twitter was introduced at the State House. State representatives passed the measure, but senators tabled it.

"From the research I did, employers are starting to ask that question more and more of their job applicants," said Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio, who sponsored the bill. Ruggerio said he isn't on social media sites himself just yet, but he wants to protect Rhode Islanders who are.

Thirty-one other states have also introduced bills or passed laws to protect employees and job applicants.

When NBC 10 asked users about the practice on the station's Facebook page, we heard from many viewers who've experienced consequences at work for something they did on social media.

"I got denied a promotion from my previous job," wrote a viewer named Kyle.

"I got in a ton of trouble because I referred to my boss as 'the she devil,'" posted another named Steph.

"I got fired from my job, and when I tried to collect unemployment my old boss printed up my Facebook page," wrote David.

"Oh, if only I could tell you what happened to me as a result of an innocent post on Facebook involving work," posted Candace. "What a story!"

Privacy advocate Robert Ellis Smith said it's tough to know just how widespread the practice could be among local companies.

"It's something that legislators ought to look at carefully, and see if it does get to reach the stage of being abusive," Smith said.

He had a word of caution for anyone who thinks their online information is private.

"No, it's not. People's photographs of doing foolish things are readily available," he said. "There's also a lot of concern about whether employers may discipline employees for what they write on their Facebook pages."

Many people NBC 10 talked with say they already assume anything they post could be seen by a boss or co-worker. But the I-Team learned it's not just your boss who may be snooping. There are increasing reports of credit reporting agencies and insurance companies using social media for their own research.

"That toothpaste is out of the tube and that's been happening for a while," said Brian Lamoureux, an attorney who specializes in social media cases.

"For the last five to seven years, we've been putting data online because we're the product. We're free. We're the ones who are giving them this information," Lamoureux said.

When it comes to privacy online, Lamoureux said the law isn't on your side.

"Even if it's 'friends only,' or even if your tweets are protected, courts all over the place have said there's no expectation of privacy," he said.

Experts told the I-Team the best advice is not to post anything on social media sites that you wouldn't want everyone to read. Also, assume everything you post on social media is public. And as long as it's still legal in Rhode Island, know that anyone who hires or interviews you may want to take a peek.