SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The state Senate approved a bill Friday that would make it illegal for employers and college admissions officers to ask current or prospective workers and students for the passwords to their social media accounts.
Senators approved SB1349 by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, on a 28-5 vote, sending it to the Assembly.
Yee said social media is a repository of personal, private information that most people never imagined would be open to the public.
Sen. Ted Gaines, one of several Republicans who voted against the legislation, said he supports the intent of the bill but is concerned that it’s too broad. He said it might prohibit an employer from investigating claims of employee harassment.
“Sometimes you can prevent an escalation of harassment by intervening early,” said Gaines, R-Granite Bay.
Yee said the bill allows employers that have initiated a formal investigation to access social media accounts, but “we clearly do not want employers to go on a fishing expedition.”
He noted that many social media accounts contain personal information that employers are prohibited from otherwise seeking, such as employees’ religious affiliation.
“Just simply turning over that account to an employer opens up tremendous liability,” Yee said.
A similar bill by Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, passed previously in the Assembly. While it would prohibit employers from acquiring social media passwords, it does not extend the prohibition to universities and colleges, as Yee’s bill does.
Several other states are considering similar bans, including Washington, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey. Two U.S. senators have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to review whether such requests by employers are legal.
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