New Year Ushers in New Social Media Law at California

The New Year marks the beginning of a new social media law in California.  Starting January 1, 2013 — it is illegal for employers and institutions to compel their members to submit their social media passwords.  Aside from checking out people’s social media profiles, some employers have taken it one step further and asked for their employee’s personal log-in information.

Protecting People’s Privacy

The new law defines social media as web sites that include Facebook profiles, SMS messages, emails, and blogs.  Acquiring personal information from these sites will not longer be allowed, but the fact remains that a lot of these data may already be out in the public.  Thus, some are skeptical about the effectiveness of the new legislation.

Employers Have Been “Googling” for Years

According to Patrick Howe, an Assistant Professor of Multimedia Journalism at California Polytechnic State University, employers have been “googling” their employees for years.  They’ve been conducting background checks, and even spending 10 to 15 dollars in making thorough research about a person.

A new social media law in California prevents employees from asking for the passwords of their employers. (Image: hme09c (CC) via Flickr)

A new social media law in California prevents employees from asking for the passwords of their employers. (Image: hme09c (CC) via Flickr)

What’s more, simply making a Facebook account private does not make it entirely safe from the prying eyes of employers.  If a person befriends a colleague on Facebook, for example, this opens up his or her online activities to other people in the workplace.  Hence, Howe remarks that the new law may provide just a little extra protection.

Don’t Just Rely on Laws

In addition, Howe advises people not to simply rely on laws such as the new social media legislation.  One way or another, he states that employers would eventually find a way to seek out their people’s personal data.  A good reminder would be to always be careful with what one posts online in the first place.

Notably, Illinois will be starting out a similar law that prohibits employers from obtaining personal information via social media.

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Neal Alfie Lasta

I enjoy learning and writing about social media and the latest in mobile updates.

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