A few months ago, multiple reports surfaced of employers abusing their power to extract social media passwords from current of prospective employees - and the topic gained a lot of traction around the country. Bills were introduced in state legislatures as well as on the national level to deal with the practice of employers asking for employee passwords. Lawmakers succeeded in states like Maryland and Illinois.
California was one of the states to quickly propose legislation barring the controversial practice, with two bills rising from the Senate and the Assembly. The first, AB 1844 proposed a ban on employers requiring a current of prospective employee to "disclose a user name or account password to access a personal social media account." The second bill, SB 1349, sought to keep passwords safe in another realm - postsecondary education.
Now, both bills have been signed by Governor Jerry Brown. Passwords are on their way to being protected in California.
Here's what Jerry Brown had to say about the legislation on Twitter:
Today I signed two bills to prohibit universities and employers from demanding your social media passwords.
California pioneered the social media revolution. These laws protect Californians from unwarranted invasions of their social media accounts.
While AB 1844 prohibits employers from demanding passwords related to social media account, it does not cover employer-issued electronic devices (like a work phone). "The bill further stipulates that nothing in its language is intended to infringe on employers’ existing rights and obligations to investigate workplace misconduct."
SB 1349 reads the same way, with a stipulation that universities are still allowed to investigate "misconduct," just not via demanding access to a student's personal social media account.
Let's conclude with a warning to other states from SB 1349 sponsor Leland Yee:
"[W]hat has happened is that there are just more and more states that are beginning to understand that the social media accounts so, in fact, have personal and private information, and if states do not somehow enact their own laws, that they are putting the residents in those states at risk. It's extremely important that individual states respond to this emerging problem."