Calif. police require social media passwords for employment screening, despite law

Police Facebook Passwords ImageSome police agencies in California have been requiring prospective employees to hand over their social media passwords during background screening, or risk losing out on a job. California passed a law two years ago preventing employers from asking applicants for social media passwords, but there is a loophole: the wording of the law makes it unclear whether the law applies to all employers, or only private employers. “We interpret [the law] as only applying to private employers,” said Police Chief Ken Corney, of Ventura, Calif. Some police departments in the state still require job applicants to hand over their Facebook, Twitter and other social media passwords in order to comb through anything that has been hidden by privacy settings. This applies to not only law-enforcement positions, but also “sensitive” non-police jobs, such as corrections officers and dispatchers. Alternatively, some departments ask candidates to bring up their social media accounts in front of their prospective employer. Some departments require password information when current employees switch jobs within the organization as well. When the author of the original law, Assemblywoman Nora Campos, attempted to pass legislation closing the loophole this year, she received opposition from police management groups that were concerned that they would not be able to screen candidates thoroughly without access to an individual’s social media accounts. However, those who supported the new bill expressed concern that if police agencies are able to require passwords, then other public employers, such as school districts, may be able to require social media passwords as well. The bill was dropped in favor of letting the courts decide whether law enforcement agencies have the right to ask for passwords, or if the law applies universally to both private and public employees. Photo credit: railking via Free Images]]>

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