New law protects employees' Facebook passwords

September 27, 2012 6:07:52 PM PDT
Your private information is a little safer now thanks to a law signed Thursday by California Gov. Jerry Brown that prevents employers from asking for your Facebook or other social media passwords so that they can check up on you.

With his signature, Brown stops a technology trend before it becomes a widespread problem. In our world of social media, he used Twitter to announce that he's approved a pair of bills making it illegal for employers or universities to ask for those passwords starting in January. In his tweet, he said, "California pioneered the social media revolution. These laws protect Californians from unwarranted invasions of their social media accounts."

A growing number of employers were asking job applicants for passwords to see their Facebook pages where age, gender, religion, and sexual orientation may be listed. Recruiters are not allowed to ask questions related to that, but they defend the practice because it allows them to make sure applicants aren't hiding some big secret that might become a problem.

Social media expert Andy Jones says so many people are desperate for a job in this economy that they'll hand the password over, but that's not the way to find out more about a potential employee. "All of us have private lives that we'd like to keep private and not have to worry about being ourselves on the weekend because of how an employer might find out about it," he said.

Some college administrators too were crossing the line when deciding admissions and coaches wanted to look on social media to make sure their players weren't getting into trouble. "One of the things that we've got to understand is that in the course of technology that we're using, that you have to then be respectful of some of our treasured principals and one of them is the fact that we respect people's privacy," Sen. Leland Yee said

Jasmine Randall has her Facebook page set to private. The 19-year-old jobseeker is glad she won't be asked for her password by a potential employer. "That's what background and drug tests is for. They already do their legal requirements of what they're supposed to do before hiring a person," she told ABC7 News.

The other problem is that some people use their social media passwords to access bank accounts and shopping sites. California now joins Maryland and Illinois in banning the practice of asking for social media passwords.


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