Thursday, August 30, 2012

California: First state to pass comprehensive social media privacy legislation

California has become the first state to pass social media privacy legislation that protects employers/employees/job applicants and schools/students/student applicants. According to The Recorder, California has passed AB 1844 which prohibits employers from requiring access to their employees' or job applicants' personal social media credentials and personal password protected digital content. Last week, California passed student social media privacy legislation that would prohibit post-secondary educational institutions from requiring access to their students' or student applicants' personal social media credentials and personal password protected digital content.

Earlier this year, Maryland and Illinois enacted social media privacy legislation that may protect employers from social media related lawsuits while also protecting the personal privacy of employees and job applicants. Last month, Delaware enacted social media privacy legislation that may protect schools against social media related lawsuits while also protecting the personal privacy of students and student applicants. However, California is the first state to pass comprehensive legislation that protects employers/employees/job applicants and schools/students/student applicants. If Governor Brown signs both SB 1349 and AB 1844, California will become the first state to enact across the board social media privacy legislation.

AB 1844 is a huge win for the business community because it may provide California businesses with a legal liability shield from plaintiffs who may allege that businesses have a legal duty to monitor their employees' personal password protected digital content. This legislation may collectively save California businesses tens of millions of dollars a year in costs to monitor their employees' personal digital accounts. In addition, this law may save California businesses tens of millions of dollars per year on cyber liability insurance premiums that would accompany a duty to monitor employees in the digital/social media space.

With access comes responsibility. Since California businesses will not have access to their employees' personal digital content they will not become responsible for their employees' personal social media behavior. Employers do not have a duty to monitor their employees' activities outside of work in the real world so employers should not create a duty to monitor their employees' non-corporate digital activities.

This legislation is also a major victory for employees and job applicants. California employers may no longer ask employees or job applicants to provide access to their personal digital or social media accounts. For example, during a job interview an employer may not request an applicant log into their personal Facebook account or to "Facebook Friend" a hiring manager. In addition, an employer may not require an employee provide access to their personal password protected digital accounts. Job applicants and employees must understand that they should still be careful about the content they post online, utilize the proper privacy settings, and carefully screen who they "Friend" online.


(Full Disclosure: I advised California Assembly Member Campos' office on this legislation.)

To learn more about these issues you may contact me at www.shearlaw.com.

Copyright 2012 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.