California has become the first state to pass a bill making it illegal for employers to ask for workers' email or social media passwords. This means companies in California cannot require employees to turn over passwords for online accounts or penalize them if they refuse to comply. The bill also protects students at colleges and universities who refuse to hand over access to their social media accounts.
State Senator Leland Yee, a San Francisco Democrat, authored the bill. She said, “When you do in fact open up your social media accounts, all kinds of personal information may be there. But information that, by law, no employer can, in fact, get your religion, sexual orientation, other kinds of personal, private information are out of bounds by both state law and federal law," she said at the time. "So, it's not just simply about getting information. There are confidential, protected information that employers will be getting, and that's wrong."
Facebook lashed out about the requirements by reminding schools, governments, and businesses that giving away passwords was expressly forbidden by their security rules.
Companies that don't ask for passwords have taken other steps like asking applicants to friend human resource managers or to log in to a company computer during an interview. Some companies have required employees to sign non-disparagement agreements that ban workers from talking negatively about their employer on social media.
With Facebook’s heavy lobbying, maybe more states will see how much these practices violate individual rights to privacy.