California employers and universities can no longer request access to an individual's social network accounts, as the state's governor Jerry Brown signed into law yesterday

Brown declared on Twitter: "California pioneered the social media revolution. These laws protect Californians from unwarranted invasions of their social media accounts."

One of two new California laws prevents employers from asking for the usernames and passwords of current and prospective employees (though it does not apply to information collected on employer-issued electronic devices, the Washington Post points out). The other law prohibits colleges from asking students for such details. Both bills, which also pertain to email user names and passwords, go into effect in January.

While some people choose to make their social network profiles, posts, and pictures available to anyone--including prospective employers, or university administrators--others adjust their settings to hide certain information. In order to access that hidden information, one would require the individual's social network user names and passwords. In California, that's no longer possible to legally obtain.

California is the fourth state to enforce such legislation, the Atlantic notes. Maryland, Illinois, and Delware signed similar legislations in the midst of numerous high-profile court cases. 

In March, more and more reports emerged of employers demanding job applicants hand over their Facebook passwords. Facebook's privacy officer Erin Egan weighed in on a blog post, telling users that the practice "might jeopardize the security of your account or violate the privacy of your friends."

A federal bill to protect social network user names and passwords, the Password Protection Act Of 2012, is currently under consideration in Washington.