How would you like to apply for a job and have your prospective employer ask for the usernames and passwords for all your social-networking accounts?
That's what's happened to applicants for jobs with the city of Bozeman, Montana, who were surprised to discover they needed more than a work history and references.
"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.," reads a background-check waiver form that applicants had to sign. (There's no mention of Twitter.) The form then contains three lines where applicants are to list their logins and passwords.
The request raised questions about privacy rights in Montana, whose constitution states: "The right of individual privacy is essential to the well-being of a free society and shall not be infringed without the showing of a compelling state interest."
Is discovering a job applicant's cheeky status updates or stupid YouTube videos a "compelling interest" for the city of Bozeman?
Chuck Winn, Bozeman's assistant city manager, thinks so.
"Before we offer people employment in a public trust position, we have a responsibility to do a thorough background check," Winn told CNET on Thursday. "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."
Hmm. Maybe I'm out of touch here, but do people really list their pedophiliac tendencies on Facebook?
According to CNET, Bozeman city offices have been flooded with angry calls and e-mails since this news broke earlier this week. In an unscientific online poll by a Montana TV station, 98 percent of respondents opposed the city's request on privacy grounds.
The furor led city officials to reconsider. After a closed-door meeting Friday, Bozeman officials suspended the practice, according to several Montana media outlets - who first announced the news on Twitter.
Posted by: Brandon Griggs, CNN.com Tech section producerFiled under: social-networking sites
I would never turn over my passwords. I would never work for any company that would even ask for them.
If they want me to turn over private information then managers and owners should volunteer there private information also. I dont want to work for a crook or someone that might steal my paycheck. Again.
They are free to do a background check and take my fingerprints. I have nothing to hide.
No way. The only reason that this is happening is because old managers don't understand and are afraid of new technology. I don't think they will get sued over this (even though they deserve it) but they have to keep in mind that qualified applicants will likely consider other job offers.
I might be able to agree with this policy for something like NSA/CIA/FBI or an elected official, but outside of that this is just someone who wants to control the lives of the people they hire.
Salary gets you a person's time, not their life...
One more thing. If I, for example, were to give this out then there is questions to whether I am violating my friends privacy, because I am sharing their information without their consent outside of the context of facebook/myspace/whatever.
Only 98 percent opposed it? What the heck is wrong with the other 2 percent. Why would anybody NOT oppose something so stupid.
I work in the Security Industry. People's backgrounds is what we base our hirings from. However we have a different approach.
Each of our candidates are fingerprinted, they are required to file their application with a 10 Year Social Security Work History, 10 Year DMV Background, they are checked through the FBI and Deparment of Justice, Experian, Trans Union and Equifax, then Polygraphed.
After that point they are all required to perform this same background annually after being employed. As long as there is no criminal actions they are fine to work. The Credit Check is not used to monitor their credit. It is a factor in determining their truthfulness during their application process.
You would be very suprised how many folks get more than a little uncomfortable with that type of disclosure.
As for this city agency asking for passwords to your own private world, that is totally out of line. If they cannot determine the candidates trustworthyness through the items that I just mentioned, their background department is not doing their job(s) properly, and those folks should be replaced with staff that will execute the background checks properly.
Sadly this is a thing that could only happen in the US of seriously paranoid A
wonder if any they used it to gain information that would possibly be illegal to ask in a job interview. Many Social Networking sites have religion, race, affiliation, age information.
Oh wow. I think thats the most absurd think ive heard.......
GIVE OUR OUR PERSONAL PASSWORDS?
Isnt that illegal? I dont know, thats just plain stupid. They want to take over our lifes. Do they also want extra copies for our house, car and locker keys?
Fascism. Coming soon to a backwater town near you.
Maybe the prospective new bosses should also be required to hand over their usernames and passwords to interested applicants so that the applicants can fully research who they'd be working for.
Hey, your info on the G1 phone is incorrect. With the latest update (Cupcake V1.5) the phone offers landscape on screen keyboard without the built in keyboard extended/opened. Also, with V1.5 you get stereo Bluetooth.
You may want to look into the currect offerings of all of the products you are comparing to the 'new' iphone, as you most likely missed a few others as well.
There's a ton of Android phones on the horizon, and unfortunately for Apple, sales of the iphone will suffer just like the ipod did when all of the other MP3 players came to the market.
I'd oppose it not only on the privacy grounds, but personal security as well. There's a large number of people that would have their Facebook password be the same as their online banking password.
How Big Brother of them...
Give out my username and passwords for the sites I visit?
I don't think so.
You're joking right? While your at it please hand over your ATM PIN, your gym shoes (for foot size verification), your car keys, and the alarm code to your house. The things lurking in those places just might put the dear little town of Bozeman in serious jeopardy. The request for any of those items are about as relevant as Chuck Winn, Bozeman’s assistant city manager's request for usernames and passwords for all your social-networking accounts. And I thought Bozeman was one of the more forward thinking cities in Montana. I guess Chuck still hears banjo's.
absolutey disgusting. i swear if the four fathers could see us now. they would be ashamed where are liberties have gone.
I live in Westchester County, NY and you can even slightly comprehend the experience I have breaching both privacy, civil, human rights and Constitutional Rights. My question for over a year is "what planet am I on?" And, how do I get back to America? Their are literally thousands of people in our own country seeking amnesty from what is referred to by dozens of titles included but not limited to "Organized Harassment", "Gang Stalking", "The Silent Holocaust", "Community Mobbing" and many many more labels. This phenomenon is attributed to many sources within our government, corporations including the banking industries, NWO, Religious Right and more. It is a descecration of the values and beliefs of our country. What has the idea and fear of terrorism created? The destruction of American ideology. Please see http://www.rosieandthecat.com
Isn't life so much easier without Facebook.
In response to: Shane McGuire June 19th, 2009 10:36 pm ET,
"......The Credit Check is not used to monitor their credit. It is a factor in determining their truthfulness during their application process. "
Actually the credit check is sued to determine security risk. The higher a person's debt or extreme changes in their spending can indicate financial hardships which, in turn, can lead to security threats. This means that the person is now easier to mis-lead/work-over/threaten/entice to hand-over classified info for some debt-clearing which is a pretty huge concern of any employer.
Business and government knowing everything about you can only lead to total control over our lives.
It's beginning to sound like a police state.
Hmm ... this sounds like the world's best Phishing scam to me ... "sure, I'll give you a job, just give us your usernames and passwords." If you're interested in that, I know some banker in Nigeria who needs to transfer the sum of $2M USD from a dead man's bank account.
If the city is worried about the recent problems other municipalities have had (i.e. that idiot police officer who had pictures of him pointing a gun at his friend online), they would be better off creating accounts on these sites and requesting that the employees allow them access to their social networks.
Honestly, this article is about a city in Montana, which is probably the last place on earth I would ever consider looking for a job, especially one that required perusal of my online activity. I had no idea anyone even lived in Montana let alone long enough to build a career there. If this article was about any other state, and I mean ANY other state, I may give it some consideration. But Montana?...
In response to: Shane McGuire June 19th, 2009 10:36 pm ET,
“……The Credit Check is not used to monitor their credit. It is a factor in determining their truthfulness during their application process. ”
Ironically, a credit check will usually communicate a great deal of false information, since credit check agencies accept a tremendous amount of unverified information that in any other situation would be libelous. And of course the credit check companies are loath to correct false information even in the face of lawsuits. For example, the same loan providers and other members of the financial industry that brought you the subprime disaster have provided considerable false information to the credit records of thousands of people, including liens that have no basis, assumed names that were the invention of the loan-application people, and many other false and misleading items. Any security or personnel-reliablity verification organization that bases its confidence on US credit check systems is in a state of serious self-dilusion.
The second I see that on an application is the same second I walk out the door.
I don't think anyone would have a problem with companies checking a potential employees Facebook page or other social networking page, after all that information is available to anyone over the internet. But why would they require your password as well? Past the login page is where content is created, edited, and posted onto the user's page. Nobody needs to have that kind of personal access for a "background check"
Why dont you just say, "i dont have a facespace account"? Or whatever its called.
The fact it occurred ANYWHERE is what makes this a story. That there would be a gov't body that would consider this appropriate is the story and not where it is located. Once this type of thing is institutionalized ANYWHERE, the fact of it can be a basis for it EVERYWHERE. Montana, or not.
The 2 percent who thought it was okay are likely the city workers in Bozeman who approved this mess in the first place.
Nathan, I'm guessing you don't have a Facebook or My Space account. Both allow you various security options about what will be displayed publicly. I do not allow anyone other than the friends I add to see my page. If an employer asked me for this, I'd call the ACLU. I'm guessing that the person who created this policy doesn't have an account either.
I thought the point about discrimination was interesting too. Information that might be displayed on a social networking page is intentionally optional, if it's requested at all, on job applications. I'm guessing it would be pretty easy to tell the sexual preference of an applicant from their "Facespace" page.
If you said you didn't have an account, they'd look you up and see that you do have one, and not hire you for lying to them.
Complete breach of privacy. That's going too far.
I am shocked that a company would even ask for this information. Why don't they ask for their pin numbers on their debit cards too?? There are other ways of getting information on people other than social networking websites. If they want "background" info on these potential employees, then they can do an official background check on them thru their local law enforcement and/or thru websites such as "LexisNexis". This is just beyond nosey and ridiculous. If this company is that paranoid about hiring people, then they don't need to be in business. I see a lawsuit in this companies future...
And on the next page, I'll need to get your bank accounts, routing numbers, credit card info (don't forget the verification code on the back)
Actually, if you could just leave your check book here with a few blank checks signed, that would speed things up tremendously.
If they want to look at a person's page (facebook, myspace, and such) feel free provided that that is not a private page. That I understand, they have access to what everyone else has access to. If they want to ask what the url's are to those pages, go for it, but asking for the login information and the password is grossly overstepping privacy lines.
Should someone post something on their page that is questionable then that is their own fault, and their potential job could be taken because of it. I think that is fair.
A brief word to those who have social pages like this.....MAKE THEM PRIVATE, only accept "friends" that you personall know, and don't mind their noses being into everything that you post.
Use your BRAIN before posting anything, especially pictures. Ask yourself...what would my boss think if they saw this?? Because if they really wanted to see you're page they can and they will....how many co-workers are also on your "friends" list??
I would have so much fun with that one. I'd make up some fake accounts and passwords for them. There are so many possibilities :-)
Any company that would be so bold to ask to potentially violate my rights is never a company I would want to work for. Plus, where would the violation stop? Are they going to tell me what kind of underwear I can wear or food I can eat next? Don't think so. There are other ways to determine a person's trust and character for a job position.
The other 2% didn't necessarily aggree w/Bozeman. In most surveys I've seen, there are always 2-5% that have absolutely no opnion about anything.
Maybe Bozeman was looking to fill the position of "Fall guy".
Bozeman rescinded this policy on June 19. To my knowledge, only one applicant ever complained about it. ppl on the internets seems to assume that everyone has a tweetbookspace account because they do, but I think this would be even less true in a place like Bozeman, Montana. I think the ppl at Bozeman made this terrible policy because they just did not understand that they did not need to ask for a password to see applicants online activity (which they absolutely have a right to do). They reviewed and corrected this policy almost as soon as it was complained about. Maybe that would not have happened without all the media attention, but many news outlets (including this one) are sensationalizing this to the point that I question their journalistic integrity. Stop trying to induce indignation to get pageviews and just investigate and critically report news. The real story here is Govt. ignorance of technology and its lack of comprehensive policy on many levels. Something we should try to help with, not just shout our indignation even though the problem is over.
It's easy to defeat this anyway by setting up another Facebook page that has nothing but a few innocent pictures on it. Then make up a bunch of fake friends who post on your wall that you work too hard and you should spend more time updating your FB page ...
What a very troubling article. It looks like we are now supposed to conform even more to some social standard of living. There is absolutely no reason for them to need your passwords. Anything you post publicly is fair game but it does not require you having to give your password out. They can go online and look at your page on their own without logging in. If you are stupid enough to post things that you wouldn't want your employer knowing, then its a lesson well learned. Anything private, not in the public view should be off limits. They might as well as you to bring in your computer and take a mirror image of it and look at your information.
I smell privacy matters burning or if not, personal data abuse..
I guess that would also include online banking information, bill paying, credit cards and the like... Are they crazy?
Most of what they claim they were concerned about would be on your criminal record anyway. Yes, if you can read someone's unfiltered thoughts you can tell exactly how trustworthy they are, but that's not the way to go about it.
Emanuel, you make an excellent point about Govt. ignorance and our role, but I'd also point out in relation to journalism that sensationalism sells. At the end of the day, journalism is a business, and whatever generates the most sales/page views wins. And that's entirely up to the consumer.
In a somewhat amusing twist, according to newsy.com, just before the policy was revoked, Facebook reported that they would be in contact with the city over the violation of their Terms of Service.
I'm not surprised they would try to do this. I remember applying for jobs in the mid-90s, and along with a criminal background check, companies would want to do a credit check. There's no reason for any company to know my credit card limits or the amount of my student loan. I always refused to sign the authorization. Needless to say, I wasn't called back for a second interview, but you have to protect yourself.
Bozeman is a university town, and has been rated as one of the best places to retire to, with a booming economy, affordable housing, good recreational access, etc. I'm quite surprised to find such a backwater procedure, and doubly so to find it in Montana, which has a strong history of resenting government intrusion and standing up for individual rights.
Glad to hear that they backed off it once challenged.
I would not mind giving my username. But asking for my password? I don't think so. Now in certain government occupations, it is required to release all usernames for things like facebook, myspace, blogspot and others. Just for security reasons, which makes sense. Requiring a password is dumb. The idiot that required this should be fired and fined with the money going to everyone that was asked for the information, along with their online id's and passwords.
An employer should have the right to ask anything they wish. If an employee or prospective employee doesn't like it,...they can go somewhere else.
If a 'fishy' person is stupid enough to put their 'fishy' activity on the web, then they deserve to be "screened-out." And if you're not fishy, than you should have nothing to worry-provide the details and then remember to change your password after being hired.
>> absolutey disgusting. i swear if the four fathers could see us now. they would be ashamed where are liberties have gone.
Clearly, it would be grammar and spelling that disturbed them first.
They can look at your page, providing them a username and password is too far. Once they have been into the page, you are now stuck with whatever they post...I would not do this.
(Agrees with Eric) I would have no problem and would even expect a prospective employer to Google my name just to see what came up. No one gets my passwords with the exception of the hackers out there willing to waste their time breaking into my goofy Facebook page. :-p
Employers do not have the right to ask for "anything they wish". Many pieces of personal information (religion, race, sexual orientation, etc…) have nothing to do with the work place. These things also include who you chose to associate yourself with outside of work as long as that association has not led you afoul of the law. An employer does have the right to check your criminal record, credit report, driving record, military record, and past work record (references). Unless you are applying for a TS or above type of clearance for government work peoples social lives are irrelevant and would be protected in almost any court of law.
You are in an extreme minority opinion group and that likely tells us quite a bit about you.
That is the most stupidest thing I heard. You're employed for a specific amount of time (e.g. a 9 am to 5 pm job). Whatever you do on your own time is your own business.
Before you know it. The next question on job applications will be what sexual position do you prefer?
Nuts, I tell you, nuts.
This can only happen in Montana!
You are exceptionally mistaken. In a true free market society, yes, employers should be allowed to ask anything they want, pay anything they want, and hire and fire with zero barriers. However, we do not live in a true free market society. Laws have been enacted for minimum wages, job security, and rights to privacy because they achieve a "social" market pareto improvement. These laws protect your ability to respond to this article. You cannot honestly be this closeminded.
There isn't anything worth a darn in Bozeman, Montana than anyone could give two cents about. What possible risk can there be to a city of 38,000 people??? There were more people in my city block in New York than this podunk zero unimportant dump.
Whoever came up with this idea – if the official is elected – should be voted out of office immediately.
This is Orwellian nonsense!
John Berlau would assert that peple with Myspace pages etc. are public figures and therefore everything is up for grabs. Just be careful of candidates and ideas he endorses. Also remember that he believes that DDT makes you live longer…
I completely agree with this hiring entity's desire to troll the internet for people's information. Requiring passwords is only a next step to make it faster, any PI worth his/her salt doesn't really need your password. Only a fool posts personal information on the internet, no matter how 'private' some website tells you it is. As an IT professional I know only too well how secure your information really is (i.e. not at all), and therefore was never stupid enough to sign up for myspace or facebook or twitter.
I can only hope more employers do this. I think of it as a new form of natural selection, let the morons who absorb themselves in face book pay the price for their public foolery. The rest of us can get the jobs.
This disgusts me, mainly because my employer is demanding all the employees at my work to hand over our facebook accounts and passwords because they claim someone has been badmouthing them on facebook. It should not be legal, and it angers me to no end. I will be refusing to hand over my information when they ask.
"Nothing to hide, nothing to fear"
Do not let anyone checkmate you into this flawed proviso.
Do you have drapes? Why?
Show me your checking account statements?
Let's tag your car to see where you go during the day?
Open your wardrobe, you're not wearing women's underwear under that business suit are you?
We all have private things. It's the "Nothing to hide, nothing to fear" phrase that tries to show you are guilty until you prove your innocence.
Finally, the reason this never works is thus. When you see CEO's of corporates, or politicians in front of congress or tribunals and they refuse to take the oath, THEY have something to hide. Otherwise, why not take it? "Nothing to hide, nothing to fear" right?
No, the truth is that this phrase is being used by the upper echelons to box you into a corner so you feel obligated to prove you are innocent. You are a human being with human rights... tell them where to stick their jobs!
Kieran couldn't have said it better. That's a load of crap. But, by any means, no one is getting nor have legal right to demand for my social networking information to get a job. That's bull crap. But in any case, anyone who has, I'd change your password asap. Cause no one is just gonna go on there to check your status. You know you're going to have someone reading what you wrote your mother, girlfriend/boyfriend, friends, etc. It's exposing your private life to someone else which could eventually get to the world. Anything about a new government worker sending a message to the mayor's wife saying had a good time at lunch yesterday is gonna make headlines and that's what will happen if this persists. This is stupid and unrighteous.
[...] Want a job? Hand over your Facebook password – SciTechBlog – CNN.com Blogs. Tagged with: [...]
[...] in 2009 this question was already raising it's ugly head, as the CNN SciTechBlog post Want a job? Hand over your Facebook password reveals: "That's what's happened to applicants for jobs with the city of Bozeman, [...]
An initial hiring packagae does not need personal information that requires password protected or financially sensitive information. Once the employer has decided to hire you then a thorough background investigation is conducted. If the employer is concerned about fees/expense, then have the perspective hire purchase a fee background investigation (state government, private, credit report). Oh and by the way, I'll give you my pass word - say when you visit with my family in our home. Better yet, your family meets mine... same same. Would you give the keys to your home, your friends home, and families home –especially to a stranger just to win a job. I guess start creating business facebook pages like a calling card and elect the information posted. -Ret. U.S. Armed Forces (30y), BSB/HRM, SHIRM, Recruiter/Counselor
[...] access to usernames and passwords, Forbes reported. In 2009, the city of Bozeman, Montana, decided to stop asking applicants for Facebook passwords after a flood of [...]
[...] access to usernames and passwords, Forbes reported. In 2009, the city of Bozeman, Montana, decided to stop asking applicants for Facebook passwords after a flood of opposition. Posts Related to Senators [...]
[...] through their profile, to check the general attitude of the employee when not in office ( – says CNN and [...]
[...] reported on the SciTechBlog the city of Bozeman, Montana had this on their [...]
That would never happen. For two reasons. It breaks the law and I would never willingly hand over my personal info. This is just another attempt to test the water to see what the gov't can get away with.
We need to stand strong when we are tested in every aspect of life
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