Privacy Freakouts

California On the Verge of Solving Crisis That Maybe Isn’t

They admit it's pretty much a precautionary measure.
3185261537 afe1eab383 California On the Verge of Solving Crisis That Maybe Isnt

This pic is still not a good idea. (flickr.com/BluEyedA73)

Soon our friends on the West Coast will have one less HR-related thing to worry about: California is well on its way to making private social networking information off-limits to potential employers. The LA Times reports that the state Assembly just passed a bill to that effect without so much as a single opposing vote.

Hard-partying college kids shouldn’t rejoice just yet, though, because publicly available information would remain fair game. 

This is just the latest in a series of bills to fight the prospect of employers digging through every Facebook message you’ve ever sent. There’s another bill in the California Senate; several other states have their own versions; and the US Congress is working on its own legislation. Meanwhile, Facebook has already issued a sternly worded blog post insisting users shouldn’t be handing out their login credentials.

People are understandably freaked out about the prospect of potential employers investigating private posts. But for all the media enthusiasm, this isn’t exactly a standard practice on the level of reference checking just yet. Even the bill’s sponsor admits it’s largely a precautionary measure.

Consequently, the Times found some people pretty unimpressed with the bill. One lawyer told the Times that “this is cure for a disease that doesn’t really exist” and that businesses don’t really oppose it. Another lawyer said she doesn’t know any private employers in California who request them, and she dismissed the bill: “It’s a boon for the legislators who get to pound their chests and say, ‘Look at what we did.'”

And then the grandest irony of them all: The bill wouldn’t apply to public sector employees. And, as the Times points out, it was a Maryland state correctional officer whose password was requested that helped kick all this off.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com