People applying for jobs with the city of Bozeman, Montana, are now being asked to list their memberships in online forums and social networks, and to provide all user names and passwords required to access their accounts.
Along with the usual paperwork, the city requires all job applicants to sign a waiver giving it permission to check "background, references, character, past employment, education, credit history, criminal or police records." Nothing terribly unusual about that, but it gets a bit sticky soon after.
"Please list any and all, current personal or business websites, web pages or memberships on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, YouTube.com, MySpace, etc.," the waiver reads. It also provides three lines so applicants can list URLs, user names and passwords for any social networks or similar sites they may belong to.
City attorney Greg Sullivan defended the demand for the information, saying that while Bozeman takes privacy rights "very seriously," it also has to ensure that its employees are men (and women) of high moral fiber. "We have positions ranging from fire and police, which require people of high integrity for those positions, all the way down to the lifeguards and the folks that work in city hall here," Sullivan said. "So we do those types of investigations to make sure the people that we hire have the highest moral character and are a good fit for the City."
He also offered assurances that the city wouldn't be looking at any information that it's not supposed to have access to and can't Constitutionally make use of. "One thing that's important for folks to understand about what we look for is none of the things that the federal Constitution lists as protected things, we don't use those," he explained. "We're not putting out this broad brush stroke of trying to find out all kinds of information about the person that we're not able to use or shouldn't use in the hiring process." He added that nobody had ever removed their name from consideration for a job because of the request.
Nothing to worry about, then. It's good to know that this isn't actually a gross invasion of privacy because for a minute there I was a little disturbed by the idea of handing over that sort of information to a faceless, powerful government entity. Silly me.