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California wants to protect employees’ social media privacies

A recent explosion of controversy has erupted concerning employers requesting to see their employees’ or job applicants’ private profile information on social media sites in order to make hiring or promotion decisions. While this practice may not seem entirely ethical, there are currently no laws to protect California employees and job applicants from being discriminated against for refusing to hand over their passwords and social media account information to employers.

In order to make sure that employees’ and job applicants’ privacy protections are not being violated in the workplace, California lawmakers hope to introduce a new law that would clearly define what employers can and cannot ask to see on an individual’s personal social media account.

The proposed bill would ban employers from asking potential job candidates and current employees for their user names and passwords in order to gain access to personal accounts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. According to supporters of the proposed bill, gaining access to personal social media accounts is no different than an employer asking to read an individual’s diary or personal e-mails.

According to national surveys, more than half of the employers polled have admitted to looking up an employee’s or job applicant’s information on social media sites. However, it is not known how many employers have actually asked to gain access to an employee’s or job applicant’s password-protected information.

This issue first gained national attention after one U.S. employee filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union. The employee had taken a leave of absence because his mother had passed away. But when he returned to work, his employer asked to gain access to his password-protected information on Facebook. The employee complied, not knowing how else to respond to the request. The employee now claims that his privacy rights were violated and that employers do not need access to this personal information.

California could be one of the first states to introduce such a ban to protect employees’ and job applicants’ privacy rights.

Source: Mercury News, “California poised to bar employees from peeking into private information on social media sites,” Steven Harmon, May 3, 2012


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