Welcome to the first issue of This Week in Social Media Law, which I plan to be a regular roundup of interesting issues at the intersection of social media and the law, as written by some of the nation’s leading lawyers. Here goes...

• California outlaws employer social media snooping:

Silence is golden in the Golden State, at least as far as social media passwords are concerned. A new law prohibiting employers from requesting passwords of employees and job applicants goes into effect January 1, 2013. Unlike similar laws in Maryland and Illinois, however, the California statute provides two important exceptions: employers can require disclosure from employees when investigating securities law violations, and they’re allowed to monitor passwords and keystrokes on devices they provide to employees.

Interestingly, while the law makes it clear that the California Labor Commissioner is not required to investigate complaints, it doesn’t authorize employees and job applicants to sue businesses that break the law. As such, it’s not clear what remedies are available to those harmed by employer social media snooping. (Littler)  

• Federal court blocks social media fishing expedition:

Earlier this year Danielle Mailhoit sued her employer, The Home Depot, for gender discrimination and failing to accommodate her physical disability. The DIY retailer responded with a motion to gain access to Mailhoit’s social media posts, because they could provide information relevant to her claims: “in this day and age, many communications between friends and/or about an individual’s emotional state are communicated via social media.” No dice, said Magistrate Judge Suzanne Segal. (Cullen & Dykman

• Taking over employee LinkedIn account does not constitute computer hacking:

If your employer hijacks your LinkedIn account, claiming that it’s a company account, not a personal one, you won’t be able to sue them under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Earlier this month, a federal judge dismissed Linda Eagle’s CFAA lawsuit against her former employer. But it’s not the end of the line for Eagle, who can still seek damages from the company under state laws. (McNees Wallace & Nurick

• Employers: it may be time to update your social media policy:

Law firms continue to parse recent National Labor Relations Board rulings on social media policies in the workplace. Their recommendation? It’s time to review and revise company policies, especially those that contain “overly broad” prohibitions on any type of comment that might be considered as damaging to the company and its reputation. (Akerman Senterfitt) (Pillsbury

• Google settles book digitization lawsuit:

Google Books’ Library Project has a simple objective: “make it easier for people to find relevant books – specifically, books they wouldn’t find any other way such as those that are out of print – while carefully respecting authors’ and publishers’ copyrights.” But the lawsuits the project has generated are far from simple. One such suit, with the Association of American Publishers, has settled. The agreement will allow publishers to choose whether their books will be listed in Google Books and available for sale on Google Play. Lawsuits with the Author’s Guild, photographers and visual artists, and others remain unresolved. (Foley Hoag


Further reading: