‘Pioneering’ California law protects workers and students from social media snooping

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, September 28, 2012 9:21 EDT
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A girl prevents an older man from seeing what she's doing on her computer. Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.
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Employers and educational institutions in the state of California are now banned from asking employees, applicants or students for access to their social media accounts, thanks to a new law signed Thursday night by Gov. Jerry Brown (D).

“The Golden State is pioneering the social media revolution and these laws will protect all Californians from unwarranted invasions of their personal social media accounts,” Brown said in prepared text announcing his signature on Senate Bill 1349. He also made separate announcements on Facebook and Twitter.

“California pioneered the social media revolution,” Brown wrote. “These laws protect Californians from unwarranted invasions of their social media accounts.”

In signing the law, Gov. Brown and California join an exclusive club of just two other states, with the distinction of being the largest economy yet to protect employees and students from institutional invasions of privacy. The law is similar to bills signed by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) in August and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) in April.

The laws are designed to stop a growing trend of universities spying on their athletes’ private interactions on Facebook, aided by a growing mini-industry of social media monitoring companies like Varsity Monitor and UDiligence, which commonly compare the practice to drug testing. The trend has also been spotted in the private sector, with a growing number of businesses using similar services or just outright demanding access to private accounts during the interview process.

Gov. Brown also signed a bill on Thursday that gives California public university students free access to online textbooks for 50 of the most popular lower-level classes in the state.

Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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