As 2013 begins, the laws in both Illinois and California are changing to protect the privacy of current and future employees. The new “Facebook” law prohibits employers from demanding the passwords to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc from their current employees, future employees or potential applicants. Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware have also joined in the trend to prohibit employers from demanding access to their employees’ private social media accounts. In fact, the call for Facebook and other social media legislation originated in a famous 2010 case from Maryland. Robert Collins, a corrections officer, was returning to his job after a brief leave for the death of a family member. In his “recertification interview,” he had to provide his Facebook password. Collins then had to stand by as an official scrutinized the details of his private account.
While the new social media laws will protect employees and applicants from the type of situation Collins experienced, employees and applicants should still use caution when posting online; employers are still permitted to use any information about them that is posted publicly.