California Social Media Privacy Act Prohibiting Employers from Asking Employees and Applicants for Passwords Approved in Senate

The California Senate Committee on Education has approved legislation – ‘The Social Media Privacy Act’ Senate Bill 1349 (SB 1349) – that would prohibit employers from formally requesting or demanding employees or job applicants provide their usernames and passwords to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Authored by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), SB 1349 would also prohibit public and private colleges and universities from requiring similar information from students. The full text of ‘The Social Media Privacy Act’ (SB 1349) is available at: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/sen/sb_1301-1350/sb_1349_bill_20120327_amended_sen_v98.html.

“These social media outlets are often for the purpose of individuals to share private information – including age, marital status, religion, sexual orientation and personal photos – with their closest friends and family,” Senator Yee stated in a press release on his official web site. “This information is illegal for employers and colleges to use in making employment and admission decisions and has absolutely no bearing on a person’s ability to do their job or be successful in the classroom.”

The bill, as amended, “would prohibit a postsecondary educational institution and an employer, whether public or private, from requiring, or formally requesting in writing, a student or an employee, or a prospective student or employee, to disclose the user name or account password for a personal social media account, or to otherwise provide the institution or employer with access to any content of that account.”

SB 1349 would also prohibit the practice of some employers who, rather than formally requesting passwords and usernames to social media sites, demand that job applicants and employees to sit down with managers to review their social media content or fully print out their social media pages.

The bill, passed on a 7-0 vote, comes after several news accounts revealed that a growing number of businesses, public agencies, and colleges around in the U.S. had asked job seekers, employees, and students for their account information to Facebook, Twitter, and various other social media sites. SB 1349 will next be considered by the Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations.

As reported previously on the ESR News blog, social media sites are becoming a popular way for employers to research job candidates.  A new CareerBuilder® survey of more than 2,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals found that nearly two in five companies – 37 percent – used social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to research job candidates. In addition, 11 percent reported they did not currently use social media to screen, but planned to start.

When asked why they used social media to conduct background research, they survey found nearly two out of three respondents – 65 percent – said they wanted to see if candidates presented themselves professionally and more than half – 51 percent – said they wanted to see if the candidate was a good fit for the company culture. An InfoGraphic of the CareerBuilder survey is available at: http://cb.com/HQUCWt.

However, employers should approach “social media background checks” with extreme caution, according to safe hiring expert Attorney Les Rosen, CEO of San Francisco-area based background check firm Employment Screening Resources (ESR), who says that “using social media to screen candidates can lead to legal troubles since information found online is not always risk free or even true.”

To help employers understand the legal dangers that come with social media background checks, Rosen – author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’, a comprehensive guide to employment screening – has written a white paper: ‘Managing the Risks of Using the Internet for Employment Screening Background Checks.’ The complimentary white paper is available at http://www.esrcheck.com/Download/.

For more information about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority’ and a nationwide background screening firm accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – at http://www.ESRcheck.com or call 415.898.0044 or Toll Free 888.999.0044.

Sources:

http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/sen/sb_1301-1350/sb_1349_bill_20120327_amended_sen_v98.html.

http://dist08.casen.govoffice.com/index.asp?Type=B_PR&SEC={EFA496BC-EDC8-4E38-9CC7-68D37AC03DFF}&DE={5C04B094-FD34-406C-95C1-A8DD50853125}.

About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check AuthoritySM’– provides accurate and actionable information, empowering employers to make informed safe hiring decisions for the benefit for our clients, their employees, and the public. ESR literally wrote the book on background screening with “The Safe Hiring Manual” by Founder and CEO Lester Rosen. ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), a distinction held by a small percentage of screening firms. By choosing an accredited screening firm like ESR, employers know they have selected an agency that meets the highest industry standards. For more information about Employment Screening Resources (ESR), visit http://www.esrcheck.com/ or call 415.898.0044 or 888.999.4474.

About ESR News:

The Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News blog – ESR News – provides employment screening information for employers, recruiters, and jobseekers on a variety of topics including credit reports, criminal records, data privacy, discrimination, E-Verify, jobs reports, legal updates, negligent hiring, workplace violence, and use of search engines and social network sites for background checks. For more information about ESR News or to send comments or questions, please email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at tahearn@esrcheck.com.