The state of California just signed into law a ban on employers and universities requiring employees and applicants grant them access to their social media accounts (e.g. Facebook or Twitter). As surprising as this may seem, this was actually a thing for awhile. That is, until the internet started a ferocious publicity storm and names were named. Even still, the practice has been common enough to galvanize California lawmakers to take matters into their own hands and pass a law that in effect orders companies and universities to stop being so creepy.
What this means for you:
As of January 1, 2013, it will be illegal for you to ask your employees or applicants for access to their personal social media accounts, which will include things like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. Keep in mind, many people already openly share many aspects of their personal life (sometimes unintentionally!). As an applicant, even before it becomes an actual law, don’t let an institution or organization bully/intimidate you into this degrading invasion of your privacy.
As a business owner, employer or educator, this area is still very grey, and proper legislation is far from being clearly defined, especially as the boundaries between employees’ professional and personal lives are blurred by increasingly permissive/flexible business cultures. Remember the days when Facebook was banned at the office? Aside from the fears about wasted productivity, there were (and still are) very valid underlying concerns of mixing personal (and possibly very unprofessional) activities with business/educational pursuits. If in doubt, ask your HR representative, and check your conscience.