Outside Legal Counsel PLC

Online Passwords & Social Media Accounts Now Legally Protected

For Immediate Release | Dec 30, 2012

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder today signed into law Public Act 478 of 2012, a new law designed to prohibit employers and educational institutions from requiring employees and students to hand over or even request passwords or access to personal online accounts. The law is formally known as Michigan's "Internet Privacy Protection Act" or the IPPA.

The IPPA prohibits an employer or educational institution from requesting an employee, applicant, student, or prospective student to grant access to or allow observation of a personal internet account.

The new law also prohibits an employer from disciplining or penalizing an employee or applicant as well as prohibits an educational institution from expelling or penalizing a student or prospective student for failure to grant access to or allow observation of the person's personal internet account.

Personal internet accounts seemingly include Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts via the IPPA’s legal definitions.

"Cyber security is important to the reinvention of Michigan, and protecting the private internet accounts of residents is a part of that," Snyder stated in an issued press release. "Potential employees and students should be judged on their skills and abilities, not private online activity.

The IPPA also creates a number of exceptions to this new civil protection.

Employers can still require disclosure of access information to personal internet accounts for certain work-related employee misconduct, the unauthorized transfer of the proprietary information, or for electronic communications devices or accounts paid for in whole or in part by the employer or educational institution.

This act also does not prohibit or restrict utilizing information about an employee, student, or applicant that can be obtained without any required access information or that is available in the public domain.


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