Florida is the latest state to advance a bill that would extend social media privacy protections to people in the workplace.
A Florida state Senate committee just passed a bill that would restrict access to peoples’ social media accounts by employers and potential employers.
If signed into law, state bill SB 186 would make it illegal for employers in Florida to request access to the social networking accounts of current employees or potential hires.
Employers who run afoul of the proposed law could face civil suits from employees or potential employees. However, there is a two year statute of limitations for any alleged violation of the law.
The law exempts social media accounts that are used for business purposes by employers.
On October 5th, the bill cleared its first legislative hurdle when it passed through the Commerce and Tourism Committe in the Florida Senate.
The bill’s sponsor is Senator Jeff Clemens ( D – Lake Worth, FL ) who says that state laws are behind the times when it comes to social media privacy.
“Social media accounts”, as defined by the bill, go beyond the obvious services like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to include most electronic communications.
Online video sites, picture sharing, blog platforms, sound recordings, instant messages and email are also protected by the proposed bill.
The proposed law does not prohibit employers from reviewing peoples’ social media profiles or other information that is posted publicly online.
Some employers will ask for the username and passwords for social media accounts belonging to employees or a potential hire. In addition, some college and university admissions offices will ask for this information from potential students.
The Florida bill addresses the issue of employer access to social media accounts, but it does not appear to address the issue of colleges and universities that demand access to these personal accounts.
Critics of social media privacy laws say that the laws could hurt a company’s ability to investigate wrongdoing on the part of employees. Critics also say that the laws make it easier for people to steal corporate secrets and intellectual property, which could be uploaded from company computers to personal social media accounts online.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are currently 21 states that have passed social media privacy laws that restrict employers and 13 of these state laws also restrict educational institutions as well.