If you’re planning to apply for a job with the city of Bozeman, Mont., be prepared to hand over much more than your references and resume.
The Rocky Mountain city instructs all job applicants to divulge their user names and passwords for “any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, YouTube.com, MySpace, etc.”
“Before we offer people employment in a public trust position, we have a responsibility to do a thorough background check,” Chuck Winn, Bozeman’s assistant city manager, said in an interview on Thursday. “This is just a component of a thorough background check.”
“Shame on us if there was information out there available about a person who applied for a job who was a child molester or had some sort of information out there on the Internet that kind of showed those propensities and we didn’t look for it, we didn’t ask, and we hired that person,” Winn said. “In many ways we would have let the public down.”
After local news reports highlighted the requirement on Wednesday, a firestorm of sorts has erupted online: irate e-mail messages have jammed mailboxes in City Hall, snarky Twitter.com comments have poked fun at a place once awarded the sobriquet of “All-America City,” and a poll indicates 98 percent of respondents believe the city’s policy amounts to an “invasion of privacy.”
In addition to the usual requests for a home address and Social Security number, Bozeman’s one-page background check form asks for the account information for “current personal or business Web sites, Web pages or memberships.” It assures applicants that any information received “is confidential.”
… An attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group based in San Francisco, questioned Bozeman’s decision to ask for user names and passwords.
“I think its indefensibly invasive and likely illegal as a violation of the First Amendment rights of job applicants,” said EFF attorney Kevin Bankston. “Essentially, they’re conditioning your application for employment on your waiving your First Amendment rights…and risking the security of your information by requiring you to share your password with them.. Where does it stop? How about a photocopy of your diary?”