NO! You May NOT Have My Facebook/Twitter Password


We Oppose AB 25: California legislation which allows employer access of password-protected social media (including Facebook, Youtube, etc).


Once the door is opened to diminishing privacy rights of any one class of public employees, such as law enforcement, a dangerous precedent will have been established for all other employees. AB 25 could lead to discrimination against an employee based on personal lifestyle. Social media accounts often detail very personal information that is currently protected by our anti-discrimination laws.


"Your profile lists you as a Muslim, really?"


Access to messages and chat which are private conversations clearly require a warrant. Katz v. United States 389 U.S. 347 (1967) established a constitutional right to privacy that would be seriously eroded were AB 25 to become law with the peace officer exemption. When a citizen’s reasonable expectation of privacy is established, government and law enforcement cannot and should not legally intrude without probable cause for a warrant.


"Is that a picture of you at the Gay Pride Parade? I think I also recognize Juan from the Legal Department, was he with you?"


In addition, it is important to note that invading the privacy of public sector employees also will intrude on the privacy rights and expectations of every person those individuals connect with through social media. Third party postings would become unnecessarily compromised by the prying eyes of law enforcement without any knowledge or consent of the third party. Thus the decision to allow enforcement to look over the shoulder of applicants is not a narrow one at all; it means that all the individuals they connect with on the Internet are actually being subjected to the surveillance as well.


We urge the California State Legislature to vote NO on AB 25!

Discussion

  • Seth Bramble August 22, 2014

    Members of the California State Senate
    The State Capitol
    Sacramento, CA 95814

    SUBJECT: AB 25 (Campos), as amended on August 21, 2014
    POSITION: OPPOSE
    LOCATION: Senate Floor

    Dear Senator:

    The California Teachers Association is opposed AB 25 (Campos), which allows employer access of password-protected social media for peace officer applicants. This exemption for those who must sometimes use deadly force is rationalized within the language of the proposal: they “occupy a unique position in society as protectors of public trust and guardians of our safety.”

    The fact that police have an important job does not mean they are not entitled to privacy guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and by this legislature in 2012 when the Governor signed AB 1844. Teachers also have a very important job. Parents trust teachers with their children to watch over them and keep them safe all day long, and it is our belief that if the law enforcement exclusion is codified, our members will be next to have their rights to privacy compromised. Once the door is opened to diminishing privacy rights of any one class of public employees, such as law enforcement, a dangerous precedent will have been established for all other employees.

    The California Teachers Association supported this proposal until this most recent amendment was placed into AB 25 at the end of the legislative session after lying dormant for more than a year. At every hearing that this bill faced, a request for this peace officer amendment was heard and rejected by the policy committee.

    AB 25, as amended, could lead to discrimination against an employee based on personal lifestyle. Social media accounts often detail very personal information that is currently protected by our anti-discrimination laws, such as gender identity, religion, or even HIV status. Forcing disclosure of these protected characteristics through access to social media would expose public employers to lawsuits claiming, perhaps inaccurately, that they have discriminated against employees once knowing their protected characteristics through review of the employee’s private social media postings with trusted friends and family members.

    Access to messages and chat which are private conversations clearly require a warrant. Katz v. United States 389 U.S. 347 (1967) established a constitutional right to privacy that would be seriously eroded were AB 25 to become law with the peace officer exemption. When a citizen’s reasonable expectation of privacy is established, government and law enforcement cannot and should not legally intrude without probable cause for a warrant.

    The information shared between people privately on Facebook (or after logging in to a YouTube account that is protected by a password) might include personal photos from the Gay Pride parade, embarrassing home videos of Uncle Clinton after he had too much to drink, and even confidential communications with a physician or attorney. To demand access to this sensitive and private information implies that the company does not trust you, and ignores the very real and very damaging long-term costs to organizational culture, employee retention and managerial trust.

    In addition, it is important to note that invading the privacy of public sector employees also will intrude on the privacy rights and expectations of every person those individuals connect with through social media. The amended version suggests that “a law enforcement agency accessing the new hire applicant’s or lateral transfer applicant’s information shall not access, retain, or act upon information posted by a third party.” Anyone who has a Facebook account can tell you this is an absurd impossibility (for example: accessing the profile behind the password necessarily means there may be a picture or message post someone else has tagged the applicant in). Third party postings would become unnecessarily compromised by the prying eyes of law enforcement without any knowledge or consent of the third party. Thus the decision to allow enforcement to look over the shoulder of applicants after they have logged in with their password is not a narrow one at all; it means that all the individuals they connect with on the Internet are actually being subjected to the surveillance as well.

    In its previous version, and despite constant pressure from some law enforcement agencies to exempt them from the measure’s privacy protections for all public employees, AB 25 received strong bipartisan support. However, as amended AB 25 represents a dangerous and unnecessary slippery slope. We urge you to protect social media privacy rights at the state level, particularly by preventing the singling out of one class of valuable public employees – law enforcement – from discrimination.

    We urge you to vote NO on AB 25 (Campos).

    Sincerely,

    Seth Bramble, Legislative Advocate
    California Teachers Association

    C: Assemblymember Nora Campos

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