Montana city treading some dangerous ground

I would bet that we’ve all heard more times than we care to count the old warning about being careful about what you post on the Internet because it could come back to haunt you. Companies are making social media searches an almost required part of any hiring practice in order to see what kind of person you are away from the glare of a job interview. Our online profiles are becoming a part of our real life persona.

As much as we might like to believe that what we say and do online won’t have an impact on our jobs, current and future, this isn’t always the case. Therefore it was only a matter of time before our online personas became a integral part of any company’s interest in us as possible employees. However being made to provide our log-in information to any of the many social media service we might belong to as a part of a job application is something new.

Such is the case if you ever decide to apply for a job for the City of Bozeman, Montana, as they have made it a requirement on any job application with the city that you must provide any an all log-in information, including your passwords, for social network sites that you are a part of. This is part of a larger waiver that you have to sign giving the city permission to conduct a background investigation.

Now let’s stop for a second and think about this. Regardless of whether it is a web forum, Facebook, Twitter or some IRC chat room you are being made as part of a job interview to give up information that makes your online doings an open book. It doesn’t matter if you have made your Twitter feed a private feed, or that your Facebook account is marked as private. In this case the City of Bozeman’s rights trumps your right to privacy.

City Attorney for Bozeman defends the action this way

The City takes privacy rights very seriously, but this request balances those rights with the City’s need to ensure employees will protect the public trust, according to city attorney Greg Sullivan.

“So, 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. 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,” Sullivan said.

Source: Montana News Station

I can totally understand the City’s desire to protect the integrity of its employees but this kind of invasion is no different than them asking for the keys to your home and coming in whenever they feel like it. Sure it’s plausible to defend this requirement for any public social media accounts – but then they wouldn’t need the passwords – however when it comes to any accounts that we have made private they have no business asking for this information, let alone making it a requirement for a job.