CA Assembly Passes Bill to Keep Facebook Employee Passwords Private in the Workplace

May 12, 2012

Vincent Howard has been following the announcement of new legislation passed by California's State Assembly this week, which would ban employers from demanding that employees or job seekers provide private and personal online account information and passwords, for social networking sites, such as Facebook, or Google Plus.

The State Assembly passed Assembly Bill 1844 on Thursday, making any information that workers or job applicants deem as private on social networking sites unavailable to employers or prospective employers. The bill would not, however, prevent employers from checking social media sites for any public information that is readily available--as employers frequently check social networking sites to screen job applicants.

Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose) sponsored the bill, and stated that the issue of gathering employee data by demanding passwords for social media programs like Facebook is a not yet a big concern in the workplace, but is more of a preventative measure--as employers would have access to an individual's private photos, and personal text messages or emails. Campos stated that our laws need to reflect the cultural changes surrounding social media, so the privacy of employees is protected.

The passing of the Assembly Bill reportedly came soon after Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Representatives Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) and Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) proposed similar legislation on a federal level, in response to the issue of employers demanding online access to such personal and private accounts as a condition of employment. The bills would, however, allow state and federal agencies the right to ask for personal and private passwords if the individual was involved with information that was classified.

Last month, Vincent Howard followed the passing of a Maryland law that prevents employers from demanding personal account passwords as a condition of employment. The issue came into the spotlight when a Maryland state correction officer returned from a leave of absence and was asked for his username and password on Facebook--whereupon he filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Eight other states throughout the country have initiated similar legislation on employment privacy with social networking. In California, Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) has also sponsored a similar bill.

The legality of asking private sector workers for access and passwords to their social media accounts in California is also unclear--as privacy is written into the California State Constitution. The bill, however, does not apply to the public sector. Security agencies and law enforcement are reportedly the entities that most often screen the private digital lives of its employees or job applicants.

Facebook has also publicly announced that employer-password requests violate its "Statement of Rights and Responsibilities," which bans the sharing or solicitation of any Facebook passwords. In response to the Maryland legislation, Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer, reportedly stated that as a Facebook user, an individual shouldn't be coerced into sharing their private and personal information in order to get employment, and certainly shouldn't have to be concerned that their private and personal information could be revealed to someone that they don't know, or didn't intend to share it with.

In cities in Orange County and throughout Southern California, our Costa Mesa-based labor and employment attorneys can find the best solution to your labor or employment issue. Contact Vincent Howard, at Howard Law, PC today.

Assembly votes to keep Facebook passwords private from employers, Los Angeles Times, May 10, 2012

Facebook passwords private, Assembly decides in passing bill, The Sacramento Bee, May 10, 2012

California, Congress Move to Keep Facebook Passwords Private From Employers, Wired.com, May 10, 2012

Related Web Resources:

California Fair Employment and Housing Commission (FEHC)

Related Blog Posts:

Disney Workers File Lawsuit Over Employee Privacy--Identity Theft Risk, California Employment Lawyers Blog, May 16, 2011

Electronic Privacy in the Workplace: CA Court Rules Attorney-client Privilege Does Not Protect Work E-mail, California Employment Lawyers Blog, January 24, 2011

Privacy Issues of NASA Scientists Debated in the Supreme Court, California Employment Lawyers Blog, October 12, 2010

Supreme Court Sides with Employers on Texting Privacy Rules in the Workplace, California Employment Lawyers Blog, June 21, 2010