Legislation has been introduced or is pending in at least 36 states so far in 2013 to prevent employers from requesting usernames and passwords to social media websites and personal Internet accounts of employees and job applicants, according the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Eight states – Arkansas, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington – have enacted such legislation in 2013. A current list of all social media password privacy legislation is available at http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/telecom/employer-access-to-social-media-passwords-2013.aspx.
In most cases, “social media” is broadly defined under these laws to include email accounts, videos, photographs, blogs, podcasts, instant messages, electronic mail (e-mail), Internet website profiles, and standard social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Most of the laws also include exceptions when passwords are necessary to comply with a state or federal law or regulation or to access the employer’s own internal computer or information system. The following states have passed social media password privacy legislation involving employer access in recent months:
- Nevada Assembly Bill 181: Approved by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval on June 13, 2013, A.B. 181 makes it illegal for a Nevada employer to require, request, or suggest that an employee or a prospective employee disclose the user name, password, or other access information to personal social media accounts. Under the law – which takes effect October 1, 2013 – employers cannot fire, discipline, discriminate against, or fail to hire or promote, employees or prospective employees who refuse, decline, or fail to provide social media information. Nevada A.B. 181 is available at http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/77th2013/Bills/AB/AB181_EN.pdf.
- Oregon House Bill 2654: Signed into law by Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber on May 22, 2013, HB 2654 – which becomes effective January 1, 2014 – makes it an unlawful for employers to force employees or job applicants to provide access to their personal protected social media accounts. Employers also cannot gain access to social media sites by requiring employees or applicants to “friend” them on their social media accounts or compel employees to access a personal social media account in the presence of the employer. Oregon HB 2654 is available at http://landru.leg.state.or.us/13reg/measures/hb2600.dir/hb2654.intro.html.
- Washington Senate Bill 5211: Signed into law by Washington Governor Inslee on May 21, 2013, S.B. 5211 prohibits employers from accessing social networking accounts of employees and applicants through: requiring disclosure of log-in information; asking for access to the account in (i.e. shoulder surfing); requiring the acceptance of a “friend” request from the employer; requiring a change in privacy settings to make the account accessible to the employer; and using log-in credentials inadvertently obtained through the employer’s monitoring of corporate electronic resources. The bill takes effect on July 28, 2013. Washington Senate Bill 5211 is available at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=5211.
- Colorado House Bill 13-1046: Approved by Colorado Governor John W. Hickenlooper on May 11, 2013, H.B. 13-1046 prohibits employers from suggesting, requesting, or requiring employees or applicants to disclose their user name, password, or access information to “personal electronic communications device.” Employers also cannot compel employees or applicants to add anyone to their list of social media contacts or cause employees or applicants to change their privacy settings associated with a social networking account. The bill took effect upon signing. Colorado H.B. 13-1046 is available at http://openstates.org/co/bills/2013A/HB13-1046/.
- Arkansas House Bill 1901: Signed by Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe on April 22, 2013, H.B. 1901 prohibits an employer from requiring, requesting, suggesting, or causing a current or prospective employee from: disclosing usernames or passwords for a social media accounts; adding anyone to the list of social media contacts; or changing privacy settings of social media accounts. Employers many not threaten to discharge, discipline, or otherwise penalize current employees or fail or refuse to hire prospective employees for exercising their rights under the new law. Arkansas H.B. 1901 is available at http://openstates.org/ar/bills/2013/HB1901/.
In addition to the states mentioned above, California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Utah, and Vermont have similar social media password privacy laws. As reported earlier on ESR News, state lawmakers began to introduce legislation in 2012 to prevent employers from requesting usernames and passwords to personal Internet accounts of employees and job applicants after critics considered the practice an invasion of privacy. For more information, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/2013/03/01/legislation-to-prevent-employers-from-requesting-social-media-passwords-introduced-or-pending-in-28-states/.
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