Earlier this year, a raging controversy blew across the Web when it was reported that some organizations were threatening disciplinary action if employees and job candidates refused to hand over their Facebook login information. The brouhaha prompted a stern response from Facebook — which threatened legal action and the possible revocation of Facebook access for offending companies — and yesterday, California governor Jerry Brown signed a pair of privacy bills making the practice illegal in the Golden State.
Brown signed Assembly Bill 1844, which bans employers from asking employers and job candidates for their social media login information, as well as Senate Bill 1349, which bars universities from doing the same with students.
Illinois and Maryland also have password-protecting laws on the books. A Federal bill called Password Protection Act Of 2012 hopes to extend the same protection to all Americans.
Very few actual cases of employers asking for employee passwords were ever uncovered, but the publicity firestorm showed just how passionately people care about the issue of privacy in an increasingly social online world. Others said employers could use invasive Facebook access to skirt around laws that bar companies from inquiring about a potential hire’s age, race, country of origin, family, or health.