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New California Privacy Law Restricts Access to Employees’ Social Media Accounts

On September 27, 2012 Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1844 (“AB 1844”).  Starting January 1, 2013, employers will be prohibited from asking or requiring a job applicant or employee to disclose usernames and passwords to their personal social media accounts such as Facebook or Twitter.  Employers will also be prohibited from requiring an applicant or employee to log in to their social media accounts “in the presence of the employer.”

AB 1844 also provides that an employer “shall not discharge, discipline, threaten to discharge or discipline, or otherwise retaliate against” a current or prospective employee for refusing an employer’s request to provide access to the employee’s personal social media accounts. Social media covered by AB 1844 includes videos, photographs, blogs, podcasts, text messages, e-mail, online accounts, and website profiles. 

AB 1844 does permit employers to require an employee to provide personal information used to access an employer-issued electronic device, and to require disclosure of personal social media relevant to investigations of employee misconduct and alleged violations of employer rules and regulations.

When the new law (Labor Code section 980, et seq.) goes into effect, California will be one of only three states that prohibit employers from requiring current and prospective employees to disclose social media information.