Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has just signed an internet privacy law, prohibiting almost all attempts by employers, schools and landlords to gain access to the social media of employees, students or tenants as part of necessary background investigations. The law became effective on April 10, 2014.
Here are three things you must know about this new law.
What does the new internet privacy law do?
- Section 995.55 Wis. Stats. now prohibits employers, educational institutions and landlords from requiring (or even requesting) that current or perspective employees, students or tenants disclose social media login information or otherwise grant access to their social media accounts. Further, the sanctioning of any present or perspective employee, student or tenant who exercises this newly-created privacy right is prohibited.
Is all access to an employee’s, student’s or tenant’s social media prohibited?
- No, there are exceptions to this grant of privacy. For example, employers, schools and landlords are still allowed to view publically available internet information, and employers conducting an investigation into the alleged unauthorized transfer of confidential or proprietary or financial information can demand access to an employee’s personal internet account. Further, if an employer or school is seeking access to an account or service provided by the employer or school and accessed through a device provided by the employer or school, they can require the disclosure of access information.
What are the penalties for violating the new internet privacy law?
- Employees, students or tenants who claim their privacy rights under the law have been violated may file a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. Upon finding a violation by the employer, school or landlord, the department may order the violator to take such action that will remedy the violation. Further, employers, schools or landlords who violate the law may be required to forfeit up to $1,000 per violation.
Although internet privacy laws have been enacted elsewhere, this new Wisconsin statute goes beyond what has been passed in other jurisdictions by including provisions relating to landlords and tenants.