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CA Senator Introduces Social Media Privacy Act

by Chris Hinyub, published


As reported by the Associated Press last week, a growing number of companies, government agencies and universities are asking job applicants for unfettered access to their social media accounts. When State Sen. Leland Yee heard that Facebook and Twitter usernames and passwords were being demanded of prospective employees in the golden state, he said he would carry a bill that would ban such practices. On Tuesday, the San Francisco Democrat introduced the Social Media Privacy Act, making good on his promise.

“It is completely unacceptable for an employer or university to invade someone’s personal social media accounts,” Yee said in a statement. “Not only is it entirely unnecessary, it is an invasion of privacy and unrelated to one’s performance or abilities.”

“These outlets are often for the purpose of individuals to share private information with their closest friends and family,” said Yee.

“Family photos and non-work social calendars have no bearing on a person’s ability to do their job or be successful in the classroom, and therefore employers and colleges have no right to demand to review it.”

Yee's bill, SB 1349, not only prohibits employers from requesting access to personal accounts, it adds further personal privacy protections by making it illegal for state or private businesses and schools to ask applicants and prospective employees to review or print social media content as part of an interview.

Social media privacy legislation might not be necessary if a Justice Department probe requested by two U.S. Senators finds the practice to be in conflict with Federal Code.

Social media giant Facebook has responded to the AP report with a tweak to its ever-evolving terms-of-use agreement. New rules on the popular website put job seekers in a precarious position for the time being, making them run afoul contractual obligations if they do volunteer their Facebook passwords to employers.

A recent Facebook "Note" addressing the new policy reads in part:

“As a user, you shouldn’t be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job. And as the friend of a user, you shouldn’t have to worry that your private information or communications will be revealed to someone you don’t know and didn’t intend to share with just because that user is looking for a job. That’s why we’ve made it a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password.”

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