California employers can no longer ask for Facebook passwords

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Covered by the Associated Press, California governor Jerry Brown signed two privacy bills today that halts businesses and colleges from demanding social media passwords from employees and students. Specifically, Assembly Bill 1844 makes it illegal for employers to request an employee or job applicant’s username and password to social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google+. This bill also makes it illegal to fire or discipline an employee that refuses to give up their social network account information. Similar in design, Senate Bill 1349 stops all public and private universities from making it mandatory that students and prospective students supply the same information. 

Facebook-snoopHowever, this doesn’t mean that an employee won’t be fired or disciplined for publicly posting something on a social network that embarrasses or makes fun of an employer. 

Businesses and colleges still have the right to investigate misconduct among employees or students. However, the second bill was specifically designed to curtail the practice of snooping on students, specifically Facebook accounts of student athletes at popular universities. 

Within a statement regarding the passing of both bills, California governor Jerry Brown said “The Golden State is pioneering the social media revolution and these laws will protect all Californians from unwarranted invasions of their personal social media accounts.” Both bills will go into effect on January 1, 2013, thus giving human resource departments at California businesses and colleges time to adjust official policy. 

California wasn’t the first state to pass a bill that protects the social network accounts of its citizens, but it’s certainly the largest. During April 2012, Maryland became the first U.S. state to ban employers from demanding private social network information from employees according to ABC News. Maryland lawmakers pushed the legislation through after the ACLU challenged the right of the state of Maryland to demand Facebook login information when applying for a job. Illinois passed a similar law during August 2012, but employers are still authorized to request an employee’s username on social networks in order to keep tabs on public posts.

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