Facebook Password Ban Among New State Laws Going Into Effect In 2013
By James B. Kelleher
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Employers in California and Illinois will be prohibited from demanding access to workers' password-protected social networking accounts and teachers in Oregon will be required to report suspected student bullies thanks to new laws taking effect in 2013.
In all, more than 400 measures were enacted at the state level during 2012 and will become law in the new year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
Some of the statutes, which deal with everything from consumer protection to gun control and healthcare, take effect at the stroke of midnight. Others will not kick in until later in the year.
The raft of measures includes a new abortion restriction in New Hampshire, public-employee pension reform in California and Alabama, same-sex marriage in Maryland, and a requirement that private insurers in Alaska cover autism in kids and young adults, NCSL said.
In New Hampshire, a rarely used form of late-term abortion will become illegal except to save the life of the mother - and even then only if two doctors from separate hospitals certify the procedure is medically necessary.
John Lynch, the state's outgoing Democratic governor, had vetoed the measure, saying it would threaten the lives of women in rural areas. But the state's Republican-controlled legislature later overrode him.
In California and Illinois, laws that take effect at 12:01 a.m. local time will make it illegal for bosses to request social networking passwords or non-public online account information from their employees or job applicants.
Michigan's Republican Governor Rick Snyder signed a similar measure into law earlier this month that took effect immediately. The Michigan law also penalizes educational institutions for dismissing or failing to admit a student who does not provide passwords and other account information used to access private internet and email accounts, including social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
But workers and job seekers in all three states will still need to be careful what they post online: Employers may continue to use publicly available social networking information. So inappropriate pictures, tweets and other social media indiscretions can still come back to haunt them.
Gun violence - in places where it's all too common, such as Chicago, and in places where it's unexpected, such as Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut - was big news in 2012. But only a handful of new state firearms laws are set to take effect in 2013.
In Michigan, the definition of a "pistol" under the law will now include any firearm less than 26 inches in length. The new definition encompasses some rifles with folding stocks and will make the weapons subject to the same restrictions as pistols.
In Illinois, certain guns currently regulated by state law, including paintball guns, will be excluded from the definition of a firearm and participants in military re-enactments will be exempt from some weapons laws.
Another big story in 2012 was the effort by lawmakers in a number of cash-strapped states to put their public employee pension funds on a sounder financial footing.
In California and Alabama, reforms designed to begin to address the unfunded liabilities of those retirement systems will take effect in 2013.
Among the other new laws on the books in 2013:
* In California, prison workers and peace officers will now be prohibited from having sex with inmates and prisoners in transport.
* In Illinois, sex offenders will be prohibited from distributing candy on Halloween, or playing Santa or the Easter Bunny.
* In Oregon, employers won't be allowed to advertise a job vacancy if they won't consider applicants who are currently out of work.
* In Kentucky, residents will be prohibited from releasing feral or wild hogs back into the wild and Illinois will ban the possession and sale of shark fins.
* And in Florida, the term "motor vehicle" will no longer apply to the specialized all-terrain vehicles with over-sized tires known as "swamp buggies" that are popular in some parts of the state.
(Reporting by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Greg McCune and Nick Zieminski)
Your Birth Date And Place
While it might be nice to hear from Facebook well-wishers on your birthday, you should think twice before posting your full birthday. Beth Givens, executive director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse advises that revealing your exact birthday and your place of birth is like handing over your financial security to thieves. Furthermore, Carnegie Mellon researchers recently discovered that they could reconstruct social security numbers using an individual's birthday and place of birth. Rather than remove your birthday entirely, you could enter a date that's just a few days off from your real birthday.
Your Mother's Maiden Name
"Your mother’s maiden name is an especially valuable bit of information, not least since it’s often the answer to security questions on many sites," writes the New York Times. Credit card companies, your wireless service provider, and numerous other firms frequently rely on this tidbit to protect your personal information.
Your Home Address
Publicizing your home address enables everyone and anyone with whom you've shared that information to see where you live, from exes to employers. Opening up in this way could have negative repercussions: for example, there have been instances in which burglars have used Facebook to target users who said they were not at home.
Your Long Trips Away From Home
Don't post status updates that mention when you will be away from home, advises New York Times columnist Ron Lieber. When you broadcast your vacation dates, you might be telling untrustworthy Facebook "friends" that your house is empty and unwatched. "[R]emind 'friends' that you have an alarm or a guard dog," Lieber writes.
Your Short Trips Away From Home
Although new features like Facebook Places encourage you to check in during outings and broadcast your location (be it at a restaurant, park, or store), you might think twice even before sharing information about shorter departures from your home. "Don’t post messages such as 'out for a run' or 'at the mall shopping for my sweetie,'" Identity Theft 911 cautions. "Thieves could use that information to physically break in your house."
Your Inappropriate Photos
By now, nearly everyone knows that racy, illicit, or otherwise incriminating photos posted on Facebook can cost you a job (or worse). But even deleted photos could come back to haunt you. Ars Technica recently discovered that Facebook's servers can store deleted photos for an unspecified amount of time. "It's possible," a Facebook spokesperson told Ars Technica, "that someone who previously had access to a photo and saved the direct URL from our content delivery network partner could still access the photo."
Flubbing on your tax returns? Can't stand your boss? Pulled a 'dine and dash?' Don't tell Facebook. The site's privacy settings allow you to control with whom you share certain information--for example, you can create a Group that consists only of your closest friends--but, once posted, it can be hard to erase proof of your illicit or illegal activities, and difficult to keep it from spreading. There are countless examples of workers getting the axe for oversharing on Facebook, as well as many instances in which people have been arrested for information they shared on the social networking site. (Click here to see a few examples of Facebook posts that got people canned.)
Your Phone Number
Watch where you post your phone number. Include it in your profile and, depending on your privacy settings, even your most distant Facebook "friends" (think exes, elementary school contacts, friends-of-friends) might be able to access it and give you a ring. Sharing it with Facebook Pages can also get you in trouble. Developer Tom Scott created an app called Evil that displays phone numbers published anywhere on Facebook. According to Scott, "There are uncountable numbers of groups on Facebook called 'lost my phone!!!!! need ur numbers!!!!!' [...] Most of them are marked as 'public', and a lot of folks don't understand what that means in Facebook's context -- to Facebook, 'public' means everyone in the world, whether they're a Facebook member or not."
Your Vacation Countdown
CBSMoneyWatch.com warns social network users that counting down the days to a vacation can be as negligent as stating how many days the vacation will last. "There may be a better way to say 'Rob me, please' than posting something along the lines of: 'Count-down to Maui! Two days and Ritz Carlton, here we come!' on [a social networking site]. But it's hard to think of one. Post the photos on Facebook when you return, if you like. But don't invite criminals in by telling them specifically when you'll be gone," MoneyWatch writes.
Your Child's Name
Identity thieves also target children. "Don't use a child's name in photo tags or captions," writes Consumer Reports. "If someone else does, delete it by clicking on Remove Tag. If your child isn't on Facebook and someone includes his or her name in a caption, ask that person to remove the name."
Your 'Risky' Behavior
You take your classic Camaro out for street racing, soar above the hills in a hang glider, or smoke like a chimney? Insurers are increasingly turning to the web to figure out whether their applicants and customers are putting their lives or property at risk, according to Insure.com.
There have been additional reports that insurance companies may adjust users' premiums based what they post to Facebook. Given that criminals are turning to high-tech tools like Google Street View and Facebook to target victims, "I wouldn't be surprised if, as social media grow in popularity and more location-based applications come to fore, insurance providers consider these in their pricing of an individual's risk," says Darren Black, head of home insurance for Confused.com.
The Layout Of Your Home
Identity Theft 911 reminds Facebook users never to post photos that reveal the layout of an apartment or home and the valuables therein.
Your Profile On Public Search
Do you want your Facebook profile--even bare-bones information like your gender, name, and profile picture--appearing in a Google search? If not, you should should block your profile from appearing in search engine results. Consumer Reports advises that doing so will "help prevent strangers from accessing your page." To change this privacy setting, go to Privacy Settings under Account, then Sharing on Facebook.
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