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System Requirements

State Social Media Account Laws for Educational Institutions

August 2013

Education institutions (as well as other organizations in the educational industry, including, without limitation, providers of services to educational institutions) need to take into account state laws that limit an educational institution from requiring students to disclose social media account user names and passwords.

by Melissa J. Krasnow
Dorsey & Whitney LLP

Currently, nine states have such laws:

  • Arkansas (Ark. H.B. 1902)
  • California (Calif. Educ. Code Sections 99120–99122)
  • Delaware (Del. H.B. 309)
  • Illinois (Ill. H.B. 64) (effective January 1, 2014)
  • Michigan (MCL Sections 37.271 et seq.)
  • New Jersey (N.J. Sess. Law 2879, ch. 223)
  • New Mexico (N.M. S.B. 422)
  • Oregon (Or. S.B. 344)
  • Utah (Utah Code Sections 53B–24–101 et seq.)

In a related development, 11 states have employer social media account laws:

  • Arkansas (Ark. H.B. 1901)
  • California (Calif. Lab. Code Section 980)
  • Colorado (Colo. H.B. 1046)
  • Illinois (820 ILCS 55/1 et seq.)
  • Maryland (Md. Lab. and Employment Code Section 3–712)
  • Michigan (MCL Sections 37.271 et seq.)
  • Nevada (Nev. A.B. 181)
  • New Mexico (N.M. S.B. 371)
  • Oregon (Or. H.B. 2654)
  • Utah (Utah Code Sections 34–48–101 et seq.)
  • Washington (Wash. S.B. 5211)

Additional states are considering similar legislation.

This article provides a brief overview of the state educational institution laws. If you wish to obtain a long-form summary of these state laws, please e-mail the author at .


To which educational institutions do these state laws generally apply? These state laws apply to public and private postsecondary educational institutions. The Michigan law also applies to elementary and secondary schools, kindergartens, and nursery schools, public or private educational testing services or administrators, and agents of educational institutions, as well as to employers. MCL Section 37.272, Sec. 2(b)–(c). The Illinois law requires notification by public elementary or secondary schools or school districts or nonpublic schools recognized by the State Board of Education to students and their parents and guardians that such school may request or require a student to provide a password or other related account information to gain access to the student's account or profile on a social networking website if such school has reasonable cause to believe that the student's account contains evidence that the student has violated a school disciplinary rule or policy. This notification must be published in such school's disciplinary rules, policies, or handbook or communicated by similar means. Ill. H.B. 64, Section 15.

What do these state laws typically restrict or prohibit? These state laws restrict educational institutions from requiring or requesting students to disclose their social media account user names and passwords. The Michigan, New Jersey, and Utah laws additionally cover personal accounts or services. MCL Section 37.274, Sec. 4(a); N.J. Sess. Law 2879, ch. 223 Section 2(a); and Utah Code Section 53B–24–201.

Educational institutions also are prohibited from penalizing students for failing to disclose this information. The California law also requires private nonprofit or for-profit postsecondary educational institutions to post their social media privacy policies on the institutions' Internet websites. Calif. Educ. Code Section 99122.

What are some of the exceptions to these state laws? Some state laws provide for exceptions. For example, the California, Delaware, and Oregon laws do not apply to certain types of investigations. Calif. Educ. Code Section 99121(c), Del. H.B. 309 Section 9405, and Or. S.B. 344 Section 1(2)(A)–(B). The Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, and Utah laws carve out information about a student that is in the public domain. Ark. H.B. 1902 Subsection (d); Ill. H.B. 64, Section 10(c); MCL Section 37.276, Sec. 6(2); N.M. S.B. 422 Section 1(D); and Utah Code Section 53B–24–202(2). The Michigan and Utah laws allow educational institutions to require or request a student to disclose a user name and password to gain access to or operate (1) an electronic communications device paid for by the educational institution or (2) an account or service provided by the educational institution that is either obtained by virtue of the student's admission to the educational institution or used by the student for educational purposes. MCL Section 37.276, Sec. 6(1) and Utah Code Section 53B–24–202(1).

What types of enforcement do these state laws provide? By way of example, the Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, and Utah laws provide for civil actions. MCL Section 37.278, Sec. 8(2); N.J. Sess. Law 2879, ch. 223 Section 4; Or. S.B. 344 Section 2(1); and Utah Code Section 53B–24–301. The Illinois and Michigan laws provide for criminal penalties. Ill. H.B. 64, Section 20, and MCL Section 37.278, Sec. 8(1).

Action Items

What steps can organizations take? First, organizations should take these state laws into account and monitor developments such as legislation being considered in other states. Second, organizations should determine whether these state laws apply to them or organizations with which they conduct business or otherwise have a relationship. Third, organizations should assess their policies, contracts, and practices and make any modifications in light of these state laws. Fourth, private nonprofit and for-profit postsecondary educational institutions in California need to prepare and post their social media privacy policies on their institutions' Internet websites. Calif. Educ. Code Section 99122.

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