California has just passed a law that will make it illegal for employers in that state to require applicants and/or employees for the passwords to the their social media accounts. While it is too early to say if this will become a trend, it is clear that there is increasing concern about the extent to which there is some expectation of privacy within the social media sphere. This is the same tension which was played out in the recent case in which Twitter was required by a court in New York to turn over information on an account holder who was arrested in connection with the Occupy Wall Street protests.
This is an area of the law which remains quite unsettled. While the courts catch up on the issue of how to handle privacy issues with respect to social media, it is clear from this new California law that employers need to tread carefully with respect both limiting and investigating their employees and applicants’ use of social media.