Progress for Calif. bill to stop employers' social-media snooping

AB 1844, which would prohibit employers from requiring workers to provide usernames and passwords for Facebooks, Twitter, and the like, passes the state assembly unanimously. It now heads to the state senate.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

In step with efforts by national lawmakers to ban employers from demanding workers' Facebook passwords, California today made a major move toward passing its own version of such legislation.

Assemblymember Nora Campos

AB 1844 passed the state assembly unanimously by a 73-0 vote and now heads to the state senate. The bill, first introduced to the California State Assembly in February, would prohibit employers from requiring an employee or prospective employee to provide their username and password for Facebook, Twitter, or other social-media accounts. Assemblymember Nora Campos (D-San Jose), who authored the bill, calls AB 1844 a "preemptive measure" that will offer guidelines to the accessibility of private information behind what she calls the "social media wall."

"Our social-media accounts offer views into our personal lives and expose information that would be inappropriate to discuss during a job interview due to the inherent risk of creating biases in the minds of employers," Campos said in a statement. "In order to continue to minimize the threat of bias and discrimination in the workplace and the hiring process, California must continue to evolve its privacy protections to keep pace with advancing technology."

It's unclear just how many employers have actually demanded access to workers' online accounts (Facebook says the practice is on the rise ), but some cases have surfaced publicly and inspired lively debate. In one recent instance, a teacher's aide in Michigan was suspended after refusing to provide access to her Facebook account to the school's superintendent following complaints over a picture she posted.

In other cases, job applicants have reported being asked to log in to and use their social-media accounts while an interviewer looks over their shoulder.

According to Campos' office, 129 cases currently before the National Labor Relations Board involve employer workplace policies around social media.

The bill introduced in the U.S. Senate yesterday, known as as the Password Protection Act Of 2012 (PDF), seeks to prohibit employers from forcing prospective or current employees to provide access to their own private account as a condition of employment. It would also prohibit employers from discriminating or retaliating against a prospective or current employee should that employee refuse to provide access to a password-protected account.

Employers who violate the act could face financial penalties.

 

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