COMMITTEE APPROVES YEE’S SOCIAL MEDIA PRIVACY BILL

SB 1349 will prohibit employers, colleges from seeking Facebook, Twitter accounts of employees, applicants, students

SACRAMENTO – On a 7-0 vote, the Senate Committee on Education has approved legislation authored by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) to stop employers from formally requesting or demanding employees or job applicants provide their social media usernames and passwords. Yee’s SB 1349 also prohibits public and private colleges and universities from requiring such information of students.

The bill comes after a growing number of businesses, public agencies, and colleges around the country are asking job seekers, workers, and students for their Facebook and Twitter account information.

“Today was a great first step in ending this unacceptable invasion of personal privacy,” said Yee. “The practice of employers or colleges demanding social media passwords is entirely unnecessary and completely unrelated to someone’s performance or abilities.”

“These social media outlets are often for the purpose of individuals to share private information – including age, marital status, religion, sexual orientation and personal photos – with their closest friends and family,” said Yee. “This information is illegal for employers and colleges to use in making employment and admission decisions and has absolutely no bearing on a person’s ability to do their job or be successful in the classroom.”

“SB 1349 is a significant step towards securing Californians’ constitutional right to privacy, both online and offline, in the workplace and in school,” said Jon Fox, Consumer Advocate for CALPIRG.

“If employers are permitted to access the private information of job applicants, unscrupulous hiring managers will be given greater leeway to circumvent anti-discrimination laws,” said Joe Ridout of Consumer Action.

Rather than formally requesting passwords and usernames, some employers have demanded applicants and employees to sit down with managers to review their social media content or fully print out their social media pages. SB 1349 will also prohibit this practice.

Shannon Minter, Legal Director for National Center for Lesbian Rights, said that the practice of requesting social media passwords is the equivalent to reading a personal diary and that LGBT employees, job applicants, and students already face significant obstacles when applying for schools and jobs.

Minter said that SB 1359 helps ensures individuals are “judged by their qualifications and performance, rather than elements of their private life.”

IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law professor Lori Andrews, who specializes in Internet privacy, told the Associated Press that these practices even when given voluntarily should not be allowed.

“Volunteering is coercion if you need a job,” Andrews told the AP.

Johnny Veloz, an unemployed photographer, told KCRA Sacramento that he was asked for his Facebook password during a recent job interview. Veloz was denied the job after refusing to provide the information.

“For me, that’s rude and it’s not respectful,” Veloz told KCRA. “Someone has privacy and you expect them to respect that.”

Yee’s bill would also prohibit employers and colleges from demanding personal email addresses and login information of employees, applicants, and students.

SB 1349 will next be considered by the Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations on Wednesday.

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Contact: Adam J. Keigwin,
(916) 651-4008