Facebook users win back control of accounts from US employers

News 2 Jan, 2013

Legal shake-up to ban employers in some US states from demanding access to workers' social networking accounts.

Some US companies will be banned from demanding access to workers' password-protected social networking accounts, thanks to new laws taking effect in 2013.

More than 400 measures were enacted at the state level during 2012 and will become law in the new year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Some of the statutes came into effect yesterday, whereas others will not kick in until later in the year.

The new laws make it illegal for bosses to request social networking passwords from their staff.

The raft of measures includes a new abortion restriction in New Hampshire, public-employee pension reform in California and Alabama, same-sex marriage in Maryland, and a requirement that private insurers in Alaska cover autism in kids and young adults, NCSL said.

In California and Illinois, laws that took effect yesterday make it illegal for bosses to request social networking passwords or non-public online account information from their employees or job applicants.

Michigan's Republican Governor Rick Snyder signed a similar measure into law earlier this month that took effect immediately.

The Michigan law also penalises educational institutions for dismissing or failing to admit a student who does not provide passwords and other account information used to access private internet and email accounts, including social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

But workers and job seekers in all three states will still need to be careful what they post online: Employers may continue to use publicly available social networking information. So inappropriate pictures, tweets and other social media indiscretions can still come back to haunt them.