California schools, employers banned from social media snooping

In this photo illustration, a Facebook logo on a computer screen is seen through glasses held by a woman in Bern May 19, 2012. REUTERS/Thomas Hodel

SACRAMENTO (Reuters) - Californians who use social media like Twitter and Facebook have a little more privacy protection from employers or universities who may want access to usernames or passwords after the governor signed two bills into law on Thursday.

Job applicants and employees will have protection from employers who demand their login credentials to social media platforms or personal e-mail accounts, according to one of the bills, authored by Assembly member Nora Campos, a Democrat from San Jose.

Employers are barred from firing or disciplining those who refuse to give up any information related to their social media accounts.

“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,” Governor Jerry Brown said in a statement released after he shared the news on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media accounts.

Brown also signed a similar bill by state Senator Leland Yee, a Democrat from San Francisco, prohibiting colleges or universities from demanding user names, passwords, or other identifying information from students, prospective students and student groups.

That bill, according to Brown’s office, came in response to a “growing trend” of schools “snooping into student social media accounts, particularly those of student athletes.”

Both laws go into effect on January 1.

Reporting by Mary Slosson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Leslie Gevirtz