The first comprehensive social media law will go in effect on January 1st, 2013 in California. The act was passed in September and signed by Governor Jerry Brown.
Assembly Bill 1844 provides protection for employees and job applicants from being required to turn over passwords to email and social media accounts by their employers or potential employers. Senate Bill 1349 does the same thing for students and applicants to universities.
A story was reported by the Associated Press that some employers required job applicants to give out Facebook passwords so they could do more research on the candidates.
Several states have addressed either issue with employers or universities but California is the first state to do both. Michigan will follow suit with its own comprehensive law in 2013. This will mean that six states will have some type of social media law.
Two issues arise with this situation. First, it is seen as an invasion of privacy for people for information that is in no way related to job performance or skills. Second, it leaves the employer with a responsibility they may not want. If an employer discovers certain information that is questionable and chooses to keep the employee on their payroll, they may be legally responsible for certain actions.
Supporters of the legislation also see it going further to include high school age kids and even elementary school children. There would need to be some type of exemption in cases of bullying and other serious issues.
Violators of this bill could face stiff penalties since it would be viewed as any harassment or discrimination case. Many consumer groups were happy to see the bills enacted into law to protect people both online and offline. Expect to see more states presenting similar legislation in their own states as this becomes more of an issue.