California Is Latest State to Regulate Access To Employee, Student Social Media Accounts

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By Laura Mahoney  

SACRAMENTO, Calif.--Gov. Jerry Brown (D) Sept. 27 signed bills limiting employers (A.B. 1844) and post-secondary schools (S.B. 1349) from asking employees and students for social media account information.

The new laws take effect Jan. 1, 2013.

A.B. 1844 prohibits employers from requiring or requesting user names, passwords, or other social media account information from employees or job applicants. Employers cannot fire or discipline an employee who refuses to divulge the information. The new law still allows employers to request social media account information if it is relevant to an investigation into workplace misconduct.

S.B. 1349 prohibits post-secondary institutions from requiring or requesting social media account information from employees, existing or prospective students, or student groups. The law does not apply to an educational institution's right to investigate or punish student misconduct.

“The practice of employers or colleges demanding social media passwords is entirely unnecessary and completely unrelated to someone's performance or abilities,” Sen. Leland Yee (D), the sponsor of S.B. 1349, said in a statement. “Today, California has declared that this is an unacceptable invasion of personal privacy.”

In a separate statement, Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D), the sponsor of A.B. 1844, said that “[a]s 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.”

California Third State to Enact Similar Laws.

California “is pioneering the social media revolution and these laws will protect all Californians from unwarranted invasions of their personal social media accounts,” Brown said in a legislative update statement announcing his signing of the bills.

California is now the third state to regulate employer access to social media accounts. The first was Maryland (11 PVLR 752, 5/7/12), and the second was Illinois (11 PVLR 1240, 8/6/12). It is the second state after Delaware to limit post-secondary school access to the social media accounts and passwords of students and prospective students (11 PVLR 1240, 8/6/12).

Social media privacy bills have passed one chamber in the Michigan Legislature (11 PVLR 1446, 9/24/12) and one chamber in New Jersey (11 PVLR 1077, 7/2/12).

By Laura Mahoney  

A.B. 1844, as presented to the governor, is available at

S.B. 1349, as presented to the governor, is available at

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