Gov. Brown Signs Law Protecting Social Media Passwords

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 28, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Make sure your clients get the memo: California employers and universities can no longer demand Facebook and Twitter passwords.

Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills that make it illegal for companies or universities to ask for access to personal social media or email accounts, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

"The Golden State 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 statement on Facebook.

Back in the spring, there were reports that the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services asked job applicants for access to their social media accounts. Those stories exposed a growing trend toward social media investigations, both among job and university applicants.

Legislatures began responding to outrage about the practice with legislation. Now, California is the first state to pass bills prohibiting both employers and schools from requesting access to the accounts. (The Maryland legislature passed a bill banning employers from demanding social media passwords in April. Delaware passed a similar law protecting students' accounts over the summer.)

The two bills -- SB 1349 from Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco and AB 1844 from Assemblywoman Nora Campos of San Jose -- passed the legislature in August. Both had broad support from employee unions, technology companies and consumer groups, according to the Mercury News.

The Senate bill prohibits public and private post-secondary educational institutions from requiring or requesting that a student, prospective student, or student group disclose a personal social media user name or password, or access a social media account in the presence of a school employee or representative.

The Assembly bill imposes similar limitations on employers in their interactions with employees and prospective employees.

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