US states enact Web privacy laws

New year sees legislation to protect non-public online information, passwords

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US states enact Web privacy laws The legislation is enacted at a time when the issue of online privacy is being hotly debated.
By  Stephen McBride Published  January 2, 2013

Social network privacy has taken a front seat in New Year legislation in many US state legislatures, according to Reuters.

Laws that took effect at one minute past midnight on 1 January include California and Illinois laws prohibiting employers from requesting passwords or non-public online account information from employees.

In December, Michigan's Republican Governor Rick Snyder signed a similar law, mirroring legislation that penalises academic institutions for barring entry to, or expelling, a student on the grounds that they did not provide passwords to their email or social media network accounts.

However, in all three states employers will still retain the right to use publicly posted material.

The legal frameworks take route at a time when issues on Web privacy are sparking fierce controversy worldwide. The International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) December conference in Dubai was overshadowed by issues of Internet governance, with many countries, including Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE calling for stricter mechanisms to control Web content and track online activity.

While the other members, including the US, Canada, Japan and some European nations rejected the proposals and the conference ended without a compromise on the issue, China announced last Friday that it was officially implementing pre-existing practices that require individuals to register their genuine names with Internet service providers.

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