California Invokes Strict Social Media Privacy Law

Thu, November 8th, 2012 - 12:04 pm - By Gordon Basichis

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Social media background checks as part of an employment screening process has long been a controversial subject.  There are questions about the distinction between the eccentric personality and the prospective employee who might not be a good fit for the employer.  One employee’s wild night on the town in a certain city may not bear the consequences as another employee in a different, more conservative part of the country.

But I have also seen with social media background screening distinctive negatives.  This is where employees cast serious aspersions on their  employers and on their managers.  I have seen, frankly, some really stupid stuff.  I have also read social media background checks where the subject expresses some serious violent behavior.  Given all the workplace violence, it may be prudent to have pause before hiring an applicant who writes in social media that he hates women or a certain race or lifestyle.   With this, we are not talking about someone’s biases, but some truly ugly stuff.

All that being said, California has passed a strict social media privacy law.  It is a good law.  It is now illegal in California for an employer ask for passwords and access to an employee’s social media accounts.  Not passwords for Facebook or Twitter, or anything else.

I have written about social media background checks before.  One informative article is entitled, “Some Things for Employers to Follow When Conducting Social Media Searches.”

According to the article in security info watch….”The two laws — SB 1349 from Yee and AB 1844 from Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose — overwhelmingly passed the Legislature in late August and had broad support from employee unions, technology companies and consumer groups.

But some securities firms that are charged with overseeing business communications opposed the bills, saying it would restrict them from monitoring whether an employee is using a personal account to communicate about the company.

“The securities industry has absolutely no interest in accessing employee accounts that are used exclusively for personal use,” said Andrew DeSouza, spokesman for the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. “We believe that a personal social media account that is used for business purposes must be treated as a business account.”

Realize that the law does not prevent employers or universities from looking over any social media pages that are made public.  The better social media software does that and limits background checks to public information only.


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