Two bills are progressing through the California legislature, aimed at stopping colleges, universities and employers from requesting passwords to social media sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn from applicants. One of the problems with using social media as a screening tool is the potential for protected information - such as an applicant's race, ethnicity, gender, age or sexual preference - to become the basis for employment discrimination. We've previously discussed this issue on our blog.
"The practice of employers or colleges demanding social media passwords is entirely unnecessary and completely unrelated to someone's performance or abilities," commented Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco).
If Senate Bill 1349 and its companion, Assembly Bill 1844, are passed, California will be one of the first states to offer improved protections to prospective employees' and students' social media accounts.
Employers have used and may continue to use information contained on social networking sites to screen applicants. Information that is publicly available on those sites will not be protected by the proposed legislation.
The U.S. Congress is considering federal action to stop employers from requesting social media passwords as well. The Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA) would make it unlawful for an employer to require a prospective or current employee to disclose his or her social media passwords as a condition of employment.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "California bill on social media privacy moves forward," Michelle Maltais, June 26, 2012