Two state laws that take effect Wednesday – both authored by legislators from the San Francisco Bay Area – will prevent businesses and schools in California from snooping into the social media activities of employees, job applicants, college students and college applicants.
The laws will prohibit businesses, colleges and universities in California from demanding employees, applicants and students supply user names and passwords for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking accounts, as well as from demanding personal email addresses.
State Sen. Leland Yee, a San Francisco Democrat, wrote the legislation (Senate Bill 1349) regarding public and private colleges and universities in California. State Assemblywoman Nora Campos, a San Jose Democrat, wrote the legislation (Assembly Bill 1844) regarding private-sector employers in California.
In a news release, Yee said: “The practice of employers or colleges demanding social media passwords is entirely unnecessary and completely unrelated to someone’s performance or abilities. … California has declared that this is an unacceptable invasion of personal privacy.”
Gov. Jerry Brown signed both pieces of legislation in September.
“The Golden State is pioneering the social media revolution,” Brown said in a news release, “and these laws will protect all Californians from unwarranted invasions of their personal social media accounts.”
Under Campos’ legislation, employers are banned from firing or punishing employees who refuse to reveal social media user names and passwords as well as personal email addresses. Passwords and other information used to access employer-issued electronic devices do not fall under the law. Also, the laws do not handcuff the ability of employers to investigate workplace misconduct or the ability of colleges to look into student misconduct.
“California is once again ahead of the curve when it comes to protecting online privacy,” Jon Fox, consumer advocate for the California Public Interest Research Group, said in a news release. “Existing laws prohibit schools and employers from asking about certain personal information such as age, gender or marital status. Combined, these bills (by Yee and Campos) will protect Californians’ social networks from forced access and protect our private information.”
In early December, Campos filed legislation (Assembly Bill 25) that would provide social media privacy rights for California employees of government agencies.
“California’s unique constitutional right to privacy should extend into the digital age and apply evenly. Every employee, regardless of who employs them, deserves the same privacy rights,” Campos said in a news release.