A new law took effect this past weekend in Washington state restricting the ways employers can manage and monitor employee social media accounts.
The law bans employers from asking workers for their usernames and passwords for personal social media accounts and prohibits employers from forcing employees to add fellow employees as friends or asking them to change personal setting to make the account more visible to third parties.
Employers also can’t punish employees for refusing to disclose personal privacy information.
“I think it is a solid step to give people privacy, but I would not be shocked if there’s some new app or application or a laser beam hologram technology we haven’t dreamed of yet that makes further work necessary,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told the Associated Press in May when he signed the legislation.
Since 2012, 10 other states have passed similar laws governing social media privacy in the workplace: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah.
The law does provide some limitations. For instance, employers may retrieve content from an employee’s personal social media account if they are conducting a misconduct investigation or if an employee is accused to unlawfully taking proprietary information. Even then, employers cannot require employees to turn over login information, but can ask employees to turn over the information voluntarily.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, since the beginning of 2013, social media legislation has been introduced or is pending in 36 states. While some states have rejected proposed laws, other states, including Wisconsin, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and New York are still considering measures to protect privacy.