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Six States Enforce Facebook Privacy Rights for Employees

January 11, 2013

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — This week, California and Illinois joined four other states in prohibiting employers from demanding social media passwords from employees. Michigan, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware proposed similar legislation in their jurisdictions.

The new laws, according to reports from Wired magazine, are the result of Congress’ failed attempt to pass the Password Protection Act of 2012.

Illinois’ legislation, HB 3782, was authored by Rep. La Shawn K. Ford. It was passed by lawmakers last May. “Social networking accounts are places where we document the personal and private aspects of our lives, and employers have realized they can get answers to questions they are already prohibited from asking by gaining unfettered access to our accounts,” Ford said in a statement. “Who we are friends with and what organizations we choose to support outside of work have nothing to do with whether we can do the job. Responding to current changes in our society, this bill takes a reasonable approach to protect our personal privacy.”

California’s AB 1844, introduced by Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose), also takes effect this week and specifically bans employers from demanding username or password information for Facebook, Twitter or MySpace profiles from an employee or job applicant.

In a statement, Campos wrote, “…Private social media accounts are just that – private. As a society, we do not expect to have to disclose personal information that is not related to employment in order to get a job or keep a job.”

Campos also introduced AB 25 in early December, legislation that would extend existing social media privacy rights for private sector employees to the public sector in California.

“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.”

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