California Stops Employer, University Social Media Snooping

Two new laws were signed by Gov. Jerry Brown that prohibit employers or universities from requesting access, user names or passwords to applicants' social media accounts.

by / September 28, 2012

California became the first state to explicitly block universities and employers from seeking access to applicants' social media accounts, as Gov. Jerry Brown signed two measures Sept. 27, reported The Sacramento Bee. Under the new laws, employers are not allowed to fire or discipline workers who refuse to share information related to their social media accounts, such as passwords.

"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," Brown said in a prepared statement.

University students in California, athletes in particular, are now also protected from anyone requesting access to their social media accounts or personally identifiable information that could link a student to an online profile.

“Employers have no right to ask job applicants for their house keys or to read their diaries – why should they be able to ask them for their Facebook passwords and gain unwarranted access to a trove of private information about what we like, what messages we send to people, or who we are friends with?” said Charles E. Schumer, a New York senator who has requested that the Federal Trade Commission create such a regulation since 2010.

Before passage of the new laws, Facebook issued multiple statements discouraging employers or universities from prying into users' accounts. “While we do not have any immediate plans to take legal action against any specific employers, we look forward to engaging with policymakers and other stakeholders, to help better safeguard the privacy of our users,” a Facebook statement reads.

The laws, based on AB 1844 and SB 1349, will go into effect Jan. 1.