Increasing numbers of Americans use social media both on and off the job and at school. Some employees, job applicants and students have expressed concerns about requests from employers or educational institutions for access to usernames or passwords for personal social media accounts. They consider such requests to be an invasion of employees’ privacy, akin to reading a diary or requiring a visit to their home.
Some employers, however, say that access to personal social media accounts of employees is needed to protect the employer’s proprietary information or trade secrets, to comply with certain federal financial regulations or to prevent the employer from being exposed to legal liabilities.
State lawmakers began introducing legislation beginning in 2012 to prevent employers from requesting passwords to personal Internet accounts to get or keep a job. Similar legislation prohibits colleges and universities from requiring access to students’ social media accounts.
Twenty-six states have enacted laws that apply to employers; 16 apply to educational institutions, and one (Wisconsin) applies to landlords, as shown below. In addition, Maine and Vermont authorized studies. In 2016, the Uniform Law Commission adopted the Employee and Student Online Privacy Protection Act.