California passed two bills to protect the privacy of individual social media accounts ton September 27th. They are both slated to go into effect as laws on January 1st. The first bill, Assembly Bill 1844, was created by Democrat Assembly member Nora Campos from San Jose. It is designed to protect employees and potential employees from prospective and current employer who may request access to social media and personal accounts. Currently, uses can set privacy settings to control who can see what they post. This bill gives them the power to refuse to give employers login information to access data, photos, correspondence and posts individuals wish to keep private among close friends and acquaintances. It protects employees from being fired or the subject of disciplinary action for their refusal.
California Governor Jerry Brown voiced his approval for protecting Californians from unwanted invasions into their social media accounts, and signed the second bill, Senate Bill 1349. This bill was created by Democrat Senator Leland Yee of San Francisco, and is aimed at protecting students. It prohibits universities and colleges from requesting access to student’s social media accounts after documented snooping into student organizations, individuals, and particularly student athlete’s online lives. Notably, the bill does not prevent investigation related to online conduct.
While a casual investigation into a person’s online affairs is now a fairly standard practice in job and university applications, privacy settings allow cautious users to protect and curate the online presence they show to the world. These laws do not prohibit looking into any information that can be found on a google search. Rather, they condemn demanding username and password information that gives unlimited access to information the user has consciously chosen not to share with the general public. California feels the responsibility of a pioneer in social media to protect these individual rights to privacy, and follows other states taking notice of the same issues. Delaware, Illinois, and Maryland have passed similar legislation, and in Washington, a federal bill is in consideration to protect password privacy.