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Friday, August 31, 2012
by Michael Loatman
Gov. Jerry Brown (D) must decide by
Sept. 30 whether to sign or veto a pair of bills meant to protect
employee and student social media accounts from the perceived
problem of overly curious employers and colleges.
A.B. 1844 would limit employer
access to employee and job applicant personal social media
accounts. The bill is similar to recently enacted laws in Maryland
and Illinois, which restrict employer requests that passwords or
other account information be divulged.
A companion bill, S.B. 1349, seeks
to prevent school administrators from requiring students or
applicants to hand over their social media account information.
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) signed into law a similar
prohibition July 20.
The password protection bills have
been overwhelmingly popular in legislatures where the measures have
come up for a vote, often passing unanimously or by very large
majorities. The vote tallies in the California Assembly and Senate
were no different.
Nonetheless, groups representing
financial services corporations lobbied against the California bill
that would deal with workplaces. The Financial Industry Regulatory
Authority (FINRA) and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets
Association (SIFMA) argued the bill might clash with FINRA rules
requiring securities firms to supervise, record, and maintain
SIFMA, in a June 22 letter, said the
organization wanted "to be clear that the securities industry has
no interest in accessing employee accounts that are used
exclusively for personal use. The problem, however, is
that many people use the same account for both personal and
FINRA suggested in its letter that California exempt financial institutions,
noting that other states had considered such exemptions in similar
bills. For example, Maryland's first-in-the-nation bill provides
it does not prevent an employer "from conducting an investigation
for the purpose of ensuring compliance with applicable securities
or financial law, or regulatory requirements; . . . ."
That argument did not carry the day
in California. A legislative analysis argued that a carve-out for
the securities industry was not necessary, and the final version of
A.B. 1844 contains no such exemption.
Copyright 2012, The Bureau of
National Affairs, Inc.
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