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Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signs into law the Internet Privacy Protection Act (IPPA)

January 3, 2013

Recently, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law the Internet Privacy Protection Act (IPPA). Under the IPPA, an employer cannot request that an employee or job applicant grant or allow it to view the employee’s or applicant’s personal internet account – such as a Facebook profile, a Twitter account or an email account – or request disclosure of information that would allow the employer to access or view such account. Employers are also prohibited from discharging or disciplining an employee or failing to hire an applicant for declining any such request.

The scope of the IPPA, however, is not without limitations. For example, the law does not prohibit an employer from requesting or requiring an employee to disclose information to gain access to or operate:

  • An electronic communications device paid for in whole or in part by the employer; or 
  • An account or service provided by the employer, obtained by virtue of the employee’s employment relationship with the employer, or used for the employer’s business purposes.

Under the law, an employer may also view, gain access to, or use information about an employee or an applicant that can either be obtained without required access information (e.g., a username or password) or that is publicly available.

If an employer is found to have violated the IPPA, it can be found guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine. Although this alert focuses on the IPPA’s effects on employers, the law places similar restrictions on educational institutions.

If you have any questions regarding complying with Michigan’s new Internet Privacy Protection Act, please contact one of Honigman’s Labor and Employment attorneys, or a member of Honigman’s Social, Mobile and Emerging Media Industry Group, which counsels clients on a variety of legal issues pertaining to social and other digital media.