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California Senate passes legislation barring employers and colleges from requiring access to social media passwords

June 8th, 2012  |  Deborah Hammonds

The effort to prevent job applicants and employees from having to give employers their social media passwords continues to grow. California can be added to the list of states with pending legislation for privacy in social media. Last month, the California Senate passed the Social Media Privacy Act, S. 1349, in a 28-5 vote.

The measure would bar private and public postsecondary educational institutions and employers from requiring, or formally asking students, employees, and applicants, to disclose their user name and account password for social media accounts.

The bill is one of many federal and state responses to a recent phenomenon that has seen employers demanding that employees and job applicants turn over information allowing the employer to access their social media accounts on sites such as Facebook.

California Senator Leland Yee, the bill’s sponsor, called the phenomenon an “unacceptable invasion of personal privacy,” and noted that the “information is illegal for employers and colleges to use in making employment and admission decisions.”

S. 1349 is closely related to legislation that has moved through the state’s general assembly, although that bill would apply only to employers. On June 4, the measure was referred to the Coms on Higher Ed and Jud. Should the general assembly pass the bill, it would go to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature.

Maryland became the first state to ban employers from asking for social media passwords when Governor Martin O’Malley signed that state’s legislation on May 2. That legislation (SB 433 and HB 964) becomes effective on October 1, 2012. Illinois legislators have sent their bill (HB 3782) to Governor Pat Quinn for signature. Delaware, New York, and Connecticut are among the other states working on similar legislation.