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New state laws ban employers from getting your Facebook password

Facebook snooping with magnifying glass
Reuters file

With the start of the new year, some states are just saying no to employer snooping of employees' Facebook accounts, with laws that prohibit bosses from being able to obtain your Facebook login and password, as well as from getting those for your other social networking accounts.

Six states — California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan and New Jersey — passed such laws, with Michigan's being the most recent. It was signed into law Friday by Gov. Rick Snyder, and took effect immediately.

Michigan's law also "penalizes educational institutions for dismissing or failing to admit a student who does not provide passwords and other account information used to access private Internet and email accounts, including social networks like Facebook and Twitter," according to Reuters.

California and Illinois' laws take effect Jan. 1, and extends the employer ban to job applicants. California and Delaware are going another step farther, "prohibiting higher education institutions from requiring students to disclose social media passwords or account information," according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

California's law also applies the social media password snooping ban to public employers, not just private ones. 

Last spring, Maryland became the first state to prohibit employer access to social media accounts, spurred by the frightening tale of Robert Collins, a state Department of of Public Safety and Correctional Services worker who was told he had to turn over his Facebook password if he wanted to be reinstated to his job after he returned from a leave of absence.

The ACLU of Maryland took up his cause, posting a YouTube video of his story. As NBC News' Helen A.S. Popkin wrote at that time, "employers and colleges demanding Facebook passwords or other inappropriate access to social network profiles gained national attention" after NBC News' Bob Sullivan first broke the storyof the not-uncommon practice. 

Meanwhile, in Texas last month, a state Senate bill, S.B. 118, was introduced that would make it illegal for an employer to require or ask for access to employees' and job applicants' personal accounts "through electronic communication devices."

For a detailed look at where various states stand on this issue, check the National Conference of State Legislatures' site.

As the organization noted, 14 states "introduced legislation in 2012 that would restrict employers from requesting access to social networking usernames and passwords of applicants, students or employees."

But some of those states are not very far along, from Massachusetts, where a bill was filed last March,  but little else done; to Missouri, where a similar bill was introduced, sent to a committee last April and hasn't been heard from since.

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