Although anything shared publicly in a tweet, Facebook post, or other public social media activity, can still get people into trouble, “private” social media information is gradually, state-by-state, gaining protection.
While 14 states introduced this type of legislation, it has become law in only 6 states so far. Employers, potential employers, and, in some cases, schools, cannot require that employees, job applicants, and/or students share their social media passwords: California, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, and New Jersey.
Several other states are considering similar legislation, and I expect that other states will join this movement in 2013.
The laws and the protections they provide are not identitcal. So, if you live in any of those states, learn how your state’s laws work. If you live in other states, several other states are considering similar legislation, so let your state representative know your preferences on the issue.
In March, 2012, Facebook issued an attention-getting statement that made it “a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password.” (Facebook outraged about member privacy – surprising yet somewhat encouraging.)
When job seekers and employees shared situations where they were required to share their Facebook passwords, the outrage grew.
In alphabetical order by state, the laws are:
Effective on January 1, 2013, the California law “prohibits a private employer from requiring or requesting an employee or applicant for employment to disclose a username or password for the purpose of accessing personal social media, to access personal social media in the presence of the employer, or to divulge any personal social media.”
NOTICE – the California law uses the term “private employer” – so this law may not apply to government (a.k.a. “public”) employers.
On July 20, 2012, Delaware became the first state in the USA to make making it “unlawful” for employers to require employees or job applicants to disclose password or account information.
Also effective on January 1, 2013, the Illinois legislature passed an amendment to “Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act” protects employees and job seekers making it “unlawful for any employer to ask for an employee’s or prospective employee’s password or other account information in order to gain access” to their social media account.
In October, 2012, it became illegal in Maryland for employers, potential employers, and eductional institutions to require access to the social media accounts of current employees, job seekers, and students.
Michigan’s “Internet Privacy Protection Act” went into effect on Dec. 31, 2012, and applies to employers and to educatioal institutions and makes it illegal to require that students, employees, or job applicants provide log-in information for their social media accounts.
New Jersey’s Law
Prohibits employers or potential employers from requiring employees or job applicants to disclose their user name, password, or other means for accessing their social media accounts. This also became the law on December 31, 2012.
Stay tuned – this will undoubtedly change in the future. I will update this page as it does change.
For More Information
Check out the National Conference of State Legislatures page for Employer Access to Social Media Passwords.
© Copyright, 2013, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.
About the author…
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 1998, her company, NETability, Inc. purchased Job-Hunt.org, and Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt since then. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.