Judith Delaney, Business and Legal Strategist, has a blog that I’ve recently discovered and love, called jahmd: Minimizing Social Media Legal Risk. Last week, by means of her blog, Judith brought something to my attention that I’ve been waiting to see come into play for a while now.
Last year I wrote about an issue that bothers me: when companies and organizations strong-arm their employees to give up access to their personal social media accounts. You can read more about my thoughts and advice on this issue here. Well, finally the law is taking notice and it appears that several states across the U.S. have recently passed laws stating that brands and schools are no longer permitted to do so! To quote Judith directly, she says:
“The states of California, Michigan, Maryland, and Illinois as of this date January 8, 2013 have passed laws that make it illegal for companies to request social networking passwords or nonpublic online account information from behind the “social media wall” (as Nora Campos author of the California law calls it) from their employees or job applicants. If you are a student living in California, Delaware, Michigan or New Jersey they now have the same or similar laws that apply to academic institutions.”
Judith also reminds her readers on a very good point: Employers, prospective employers, colleagues, clients and academic institutions can still Google and view your public social media accounts at their will – and trust me when I say that if they’re looking into you, you’d better believe that they will! So make sure that your privacy settings are set to your preferences and that your profile and cover photos are not of you doing something that you will later be judged on and regret. Having a responsible online presence should be a no-brainer. Whether you’re working for yourself or for others, your personal brand-image follows you online. So, no matter what, it’s always important to be socially responsible.
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.
Good piece on the new law. Only problem–in the U.S., this is a state law. Each state will be required to pass their own version and one state's law cannot apply to a situation in another state. It will be a while before this takes hold in the U.S. completely. The problem has not been workplace–here the NLRB is on top of that now. The problem is in schools. That will be the big hurdle. The Maryland law applies to workplace only–they threw out the school piece because of objections from some colleges. It will be an interesting issue to watch.
Melissa Agnes says
Yes, that's correct. The states in which both laws have passed are listed above in my post. It's just the beginning and will definitely be interesting to see how this issue progresses, both in the United States, Canada and the rest of the world.
Terri K says
A very interesting read. I think people take for granted the notion of being "Googled". It was once a cool term for celebrities and public figures to use when fans or foes wanted to get information on their career and accomplishments but today if you have posted your name on ANYTHING online you can be "Googled" and found.
One's personal brand is definitely something to be mindful of online because no one gives you a chance to defend a statement especially if taken out of context.
I do wonder if more states are looking into to similar laws across the USA.
Melissa Agnes says
Not just if YOU post your name, but if others write or post about you as well – and those posts/articles are not ones you always want to be found by others. A responsible online presence is extremely important to have, no matter who you are.
It will indeed be interesting to see how this law takes shape in other states and countries. I'll be keeping my eye out for further updates 😉