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June 19, 2009

Want a job? Hand over your Facebook password

Posted: 06:11 PM ET

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.

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Filed under: social-networking sites


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