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Social media content safe from employment contracts in California

Earlier this year, reports began to surface that businesses were asking job applicants to allow a representative of the business to view the applicant’s Facebook account as part of the interviewing and hiring process. Many citizens value their right to privacy above all and take great pains to keep passwords and other private information safe and secure. At the federal level, a proposed ban on this interview and application practice failed. However, California has recently signed a law protecting individuals’ passwords and social media accounts from exposure under employment contracts.

Further, according to reports from sources, many universities are requiring that one coach or administrator from each of its sports teams be in charge of monitoring the social media accounts and public internet postings of the athletes on that team. Universities apparently derive the authority for this type of monitoring from the fact that the athlete being monitored is similar to an employee and representative of the school through the scholarship they receive from the institution. In fact, many universities have broadened this practice beyond student-athletes to include any and all students attending the school by way of a university or endowment-funded scholarship.

California’s law was hastily enacted in response to the growth in reports of businesses and universities asking for permission to monitor applicants’, employees’ and/or scholarship recipients’ social media accounts. Under this new legislation, employers and universities are forbidden from asking employees and applicants for passwords to social media accounts. As a result of the haste with which this law was written and passed, many question whether it is enough to completely thwart the attempts of businesses and universities from engaging in this practice.

Facebook responded to the growth in these types of media reports by reminding schools, government organizations and businesses that open sharing of passwords was expressly forbidden by its privacy policy. Many people believe that social media cites are outlets of expression. As such, they are not as rigorous in evaluating and protecting the structure or content of their social media accounts as they would be with projects or tasks at work. For now, residents in California are safe from the exposure of the content of their social media accounts under the stipulations of a scholarship or employment contracts. Citizens should ensure they understand their rights under this new legislation and relevant California laws.

Source: Daily Deal Media, “California Says “No No No” to Businesses and Universities Asking for Applicants Social Media Passwords,” Don Young, Jr., Oct. 1, 2012

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