If you are seeking employment in California or Illinois, you no longer have to worry about prospective employers seeing private photos and messages between your friends on Facebook (News - Alert).
A new law has been enacted in both states that now makes it illegal for employers to request passwords for social networking websites such as Facebook or non-public online account information from either current or future employees.
A subsection of Illinois' new law states: "It shall be unlawful for any employer to request or require any employee or prospective employee to provide any password or other related account information in order to gain access to the employee's or prospective employee's account or profile on a social networking website or to demand access in any manner to an employee's or prospective employee's account or profile on a social networking website."
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However, it is important to note that employers will still be able to view public posts, photos and other social networking activity.
Similar bills have also been passed in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Michigan, with the latter state also making it illegal for schools and colleges to keep a tab on the online activities of students.
"Cyber security is important to the reinvention of Michigan, and protecting the private Internet accounts of residents is a part of that," Rick Snyder (News - Alert), governor of Michigan, said in a statement after signing the online privacy legislation. "Potential employees and students should be judged on their skills and abilities, not private online activity."
Facebook has said it will stand behind its users to enforce the law when it comes to employers and universities asking for passwords to gain access to profiles.
"We'll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges," Erin Egan, chief privacy office of Facebook, said in a statement. "We don't think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don't think it’s the right thing to do."
With the new law in California and Illinois, employees will be judged solely on employment history and merit rather than their social networking activity.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman