On September 27, 2012, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed Assembly Bill 1844 (AB 1844) and Senate Bill 1349 (SB 1349), that prohibits employers from requiring or requesting that an employee or applicant provide access to personal social media accounts. California is the third state to pass a “password protection” law, joining Maryland and Illinois. The new law will go into effect January 1, 2013 and adds to the Labor Code Section 980.
California’s new law, entitled “Employer Use of Social Media,” prohibits employers’ access to applicants’ and employees’ personal social media content. Employers cannot request or require that applicants or employees: (a) disclose social media log-in credentials; (b) access personal social media in the employer’s presence, i.e., allow the employer to “shoulder surf;” or (c) “divulge any personal social media content.” Under the law, “social media” includes social media services and accounts, as well as content such as videos, photos, blogs, podcasts, text messages, email, and website profiles and locations.
Many states have pending legislation but the newest social media law in California has one differentiator. California’s law includes an exception that permits employers to ask an employee to divulge personal social media content that the employer “reasonably believe[s] to be relevant to an investigation of allegations of employee misconduct or employee violation of applicable laws and regulations.”
Similarly, Senate Bill 1349 (SB 1349), protects students and prospective students against having to divulge passwords and logins by universities for enrollment decisions.