Well, thank goodness for that: California lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly to make it illegal for employers to ask job applicants or employees for their social media passwords; it also forbids retaliation against employees who refuse to share passwords. The bill, AB 1844, was passed in a unanimous vote by California’s Senate, 37-0. The bill next goes to the State Assembly for a vote, where it is almost certain to be passed.
While many businesspeople complain -- perhaps rightly -- about California’s regulation-happy state and local governments, I don’t think anyone will (publicly) argue with the wisdom of this ban, which resembles similar laws under consideration in other states. Some bosses may feel it incumbent on them to monitor and police their employees’ personal lives, but I think most people would agree that those bosses are schmucks.
In an interesting addition, the bill passed by the California Senate also forbids schools from requiring students to divulge their social media passwords -- a response to moves by some universities looking to crack down on misbehavior, especially among student athletes, by monitoring their online activities (the bill would cover all students, not just athletes).
Some schools have already implemented monitoring systems created by companies like UDiligence and Varsity Monitor: according to the Courier-Journal, the University of Kentucky has installed monitoring software on athletes’ personal accounts, which watches for words including “panties,” “Arab,” “fight”, and “pony,” a slang term for crack -- a verbal pastiche which in another context might qualify as found poetry.