People in the state of California can rest easy tonight knowing that this morning, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that protects university officials and employers from requiring applicants to give up their email and social media account passwords. In a release from the governor’s office, he said that California is pioneering the social media revolution and that the new laws will protect all Californians from unwarranted invasions of their personal social media accounts. The news also broke from the governor’s office on Twitter, Google+, MySpace, and Facebook.
Two laws were introduced in both houses by Nora Campos (D-San Jose) and Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) in an attempt to help curb this increasing practice. As it stands, both laws protect the applicant from any disciplinary actions by refusing, but doesn’t apply to passwords or other information used to access employer-issued electronic devices, so it’s possible that if you are using Facebook on your company’s iPhone or iPad, you may need to provide your login if asked by your supervisor.
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In signing the bill, Governor Brown made California the third state in the nation to enact social media privacy laws. Other states with laws include Illinois and Maryland, but those have yet to go into effect. Over a dozen other states are still working on similar legislation. In Washington, DC, two prominent senators, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have requested the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate whether or not these social media password inquiries violated federal law. Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY) has already introduced privacy legislation in the US House of Representatives, but it has not yet come up for a vote in the House.
The California laws are Assembly Bill 1844 and Senate Bill 1349.