New Michigan law protects social network accounts from nosy employers

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Announced on the Michigan Newswire during Friday, state lawmakers signed new legislation designed to protect the privacy of Michigan citizens regarding social network accounts. Signed by Governor Rick Snyder, the new law prohibits any employer from asking a job applicant or current employee to provide user names and passwords to their personal pages on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. In addition, employers aren’t allowed to request passwords for personal email accounts from applicants or current employees.

Governor Rick SnyderThis law also extends to educational institutions, specifically during the admissions process at all colleges within the state. Representatives of a college are not allowed to request social network account information from current or future students. Any educational organization that continues to request this information will be penalized by the state. 

Regarding the signing of the new law, Governor Snyder stated “Cyber security is important to the reinvention of Michigan, and protecting the private internet accounts of residents is a part of that. Potential employees and students should be judged on their skills and abilities, not private online activity.” Anyone that breaks the new law will face up to three months in jail and a $1,000 fine for each offense. According to the release, the new law went into effect immediately.

Michigan isn’t the only state that’s passed a new law to protect the online privacy of residents. California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey have all passed legislation that prevents employers from snooping on current and potential employees using private login information. Specifically, the California and Illinois laws go into effect on January 1, 2013. In California, the law also extends to public employers as opposed to just private businesses. Discussion around the protection of online social media profiles was spurred during 2011 after the ACLU challenged the state of Maryland over the right to check up on employees using personal social network account information.