Six states now protect worker social media accounts

The incidents had been piling up:

  • In Maryland a corrections worker up for recertification was required to turn over his Facebook login.
  • In Michigan, the Council of State Governments (CSG) reported, "an elementary school teacher's aide in Michigan was suspended, and then fired, for refusing to provide access to her Facebook account."
  • And Facebook's privacy officer disclosed that the company had received a "distressing increase" in reports of employers demanding access to employee social media.

But labor, nonprofits and civil rights groups have fought back, and now six states have laws specifically protecting workers against such demands.

In 2012, 50 million more people were added to those covered by social media privacy laws, thanks to new rules in California and Illinois.

In August, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill amending the "Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act," and in September, California Governor Jerry Brown added legislated prohibitions to the labor code. Illinois and California join Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, and Delaware in adding privacy laws which protect workers' social media accounts.

While the laws can allow employers to review public postings by individuals, and company emails, they restrict any further probing.

According to computer magazine InfoWorld, "The law prohibits employers from terminating employees or otherwise retaliating against them for failing to give up passwords or other information used to access personal social media accounts."

Maryland says no to employer demands for Facebook passwords (Speed Matters, Apr. 10, 2012)

State Leaders Work to Protect the Privacy of Employees' and Students' Social Media Accounts (Council of State Governments, May 7, 2012)

Ill. bans firms from asking workers, job seekers for social media info (Computerworld, Aug. 7, 2012)

New laws keep employers out of worker social media accounts (Infoworld, Jan. 4, 2013)