Three new social media privacy laws protect college students and employees

Three more states — Arkansas, New Mexico and Utah — have passed laws this year that will protect current and prospective students’ and employees’ privacy on social networks. These states are the latest to sign into law protections that forbid employers or colleges to ask for access to applicants’ social media accounts, something we wrote about in last fall’s edition of the Report, the SPLC’s magazine.

  • In Arkansas, legislation was signed into law in April that will prohibit colleges and universities from requesting or requiring a current or prospective employee or student to give the institution their username or password for any social media account. It also forbids colleges from requiring students to “friend” a coach or employee.
  • New Mexico passed two laws in April that have virtually the same effect as the Arkansas law. One makes it illegal for an employer to force a current or prospective employee to disclose their social networking passwords, while the other prevents public and private colleges from demanding access to the social media accounts of current and prospective students.
  • The Utah law, passed in March, is similar. It forbids employers and schools from demanding access to a current or prospective student or employee. The law states that if a violation occurs, the victim may seek monetary relief up $500.

The laws in these states will ensure that students and employees will not have to give up their social media information process to work at or attend school at higher education institutions. They also offer protections for those currently attending or working at those institutions.

These states join six others — Delaware, California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan and New Jersey — that had passed laws in 2012 restricting colleges’ ability to demand social-media passwords. Here’s a map of all the states that have enacted student-protective social media privacy laws.

View Laws protecting social media privacy in a larger map