IT Employment

City wants job applicants to turn over Facebook user names and passwords

Officials in the city of Bozeman, Montana are asking job applicants to turn over their user names and passwords to social networking sites like Facebook as part of their background checks.

Officials in the city of Bozeman, Montana are asking job applicants to turn over their user names and passwords to social networking sites like Facebook as part of their background checks.

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Remember last week when you thought the worst of your job-hunting worries was answering the dreaded Where do you see yourself in five years question? Well, set aside that beef because there's a new interviewing element in town (well, in one town at least), and it's ugly.

A town once called the "All-America City," Bozeman, Montana, has taken an interesting tack when it comes to background checks on job candidates. According to cbsnews.com:

The Rocky Mountain city instructs all job applicants to divulge their usernames 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." Bozeman city officials say that this is just a component of a thorough background check.

Chuck Winn, Bozeman's assistant city manager, was quoted as saying,

"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. In many ways we would have let the public down."

Though the handing over of such personal and confidential information is not required, the Bozeman group says that if you claim something on your application and they later find out you lied, you will be fired.

The legal community weighs in

Kevin Bankston, an attorney, said, "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?"

Wow. Remind me never to apply for a job in Bozeman. What do you guys think of this turn of events, and will it catch on elsewhere?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

202 comments
simon
simon

Rather scary thought. Do we hand over our internet bank account logins too? I applied for a CIO position at a certain unnamed City Council. Part of their pre screening was sexual health questions!!! I started to wonder how close a team they were and what they were into ! Strangely enough when I declined the job they were most put-out.

smartaffair
smartaffair

Consent to 24/7 wiretapping of your phones, you routine servant to the ultraclass. You shouldn't really be trusted. I mean, who knows? You could be a 'turorist' scheming in BFE, er, Montana (go ahead, just try and say the word 'nukulah'). Then turn over the keys to your mobile phone, home phone, bank accounts, genetic background, sexual and polical beliefs and consent to 24/7 videorecording and geotracking of you, family and friends. Welcome to Stasi-USA, the state of perpetual safety as ordered by those who know best what is good for you.

spencercountyman
spencercountyman

I like bratwizard's reply. This may show why and that some people should have two accounts on each site. One with no way to trace back to them and another for all to see.

bratwizard
bratwizard

How about I give them a photocopy of my ass and a little arrow pointing to the exact spot for them to kiss it?

bratwizard
bratwizard

How about I give them a photocopy of my ass and a little arrow pointing to the exact spot for them to kiss it?

codeisme
codeisme

Never give your passwords to anyone! How would they like it, if people that worked for the city on computers, were asked to give up their passwords?

buket3
buket3

Its 0k As long as the City give you a complete list of all employes so u know who you are working with their likes dislikes Ernie D Australia

dkbjee64
dkbjee64

Tell the city to go to "HELL", hey we live in a free country, so is everyone ready to give up the right to privacy? I did not migrate to this country to have big brother watching over my shoulder. What happened to the government staying out of our lives?

cwizshyam
cwizshyam

City don't want to spend money for back ground check? I think not a good idea, people can create another id in facebook, which is clean and share the user name password. Stupid City.

AV .
AV .

What an invasion of whats left of your privacy. You already have to have a physical, drug test, fbi background check and now they want to have access to your online life too! I don't think its legal and honestly, I could easily make a fake Facebook page just to appease them and give them the password. I think this company is walking a very fine line legally and one day they might be challenged by someone who gave them the passwords and either didn't get the job or were fired because of what the company saw on their Facebook page. AV

Derek Schauland
Derek Schauland

I would not divulge the login information as they do not need access to the account, personal information is one thing but access to edit and use it would still be an invasion of privacy on some levels. Not sure why they need that kind of access when Google would get them the skinny on most anyone anyhow especially those using the Internet. I guess there might be a few people who arent online in 2009...

DaveCurlee
DaveCurlee

The next step needs to be to have applicants (and current workers too) hand over their house keys. The city should do a thorough search of their houses. Probable cause be damned! Chuck Winn, Bozeman?s assistant city manager, was quoted as saying, ?Shame on us if there was information out there available about a person who applied for a job who was a child molester or...." Shame on them if they hire a child molester and didn't search that persons house before hiring him. They would have been able to find the hidden pictures and saved the public from this possible ne'er-do-well clerk. It's just part of their thorough back ground check. So c'mon you Bozemanites. Give them all your keys, all your user names, all your passwords... If you have nothing to hide, then what have you got to lose? THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS! Someone needs to quickly file a humongous law suit against that bass-ackwards township. IDIOTS! Freaking morons!

zclayton2
zclayton2

A jackbooted thug will be here shortly.

rtillotson
rtillotson

If applicants must reveal this stuff, are they completing the first lesson in Bozeman's "reeducation camp" cirricula?

Mr.Newman
Mr.Newman

I use facebook only for to keep contact with my relatives and friends. Providing the password and user name of my facebook account I give access not only my private page but also I violate the privacy of other people too. It's not acceptable at all. I don't think company with such policy will be sucessuful.

twitchd8
twitchd8

It's a complete and utter denial of their first amendment rights, not to mention that, if you give your password to them, you break your LEGAL contract with the social networking site(s) which, somewhere in each one, state that you are not to give you password out so as to protect the account, and that you, and only you, can access the services provided under your account. If they require you to give them your username and password, they have every right to sue the city for everything they can get out of them. Dang, talk about a corrupt political system...

bobg
bobg

Not only is this illegal but it opens the City up to a lawsuit should the information get out. I can't believe that the city attourney let this one get approved.

stuart
stuart

So, they will not get any good tallent or the new applicants will just create false accounts and share those. This is a people not thinking right issue as well.

m@rcel
m@rcel

That new Japanese brain scan device might be handy for Bozeman.

makkh
makkh

They might ask for your blood sample (to obtain more info via DNA?), scout around your living place (to know how you behave normally?), tab your calls/place hidden cameras (to study your social life?)......

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

Get a lawyer. Read the notice and figure out a way to sue. Do what is necessary and sue their pants off. I would like to own a small town. The first thing I would do is change the name. How does this sound, the Town of the Mighty Mike? As the Chinese say interesting times bring great opportunity.

Ken Dally
Ken Dally

I would be telling them to take the largest object I could think of and insert it sideways and twist. This is amazing. Don't you Americans have something called the 1st Amendment?

MPG187
MPG187

That's none of their business. Everyone parties and uses alcohol and maybe "drugs" (I can see if you have heroin addicts or crackheads, but people who maybe smoke Marijuana a few times, or even all the time but don't let it affect their job performance). I would say I don't have a facebook, I do, but even if I did I would say that. Does facebook have a thing where I can have two profiles, one with my alcohol use, etc that only people I say can see and then one for employers to see with none of that?

GingerLassy
GingerLassy

what's wrong with a Police background check (for the State of for the whole country depending upon job). Being required to give up your username and password for what is a "personal" use is an invasion of privacy, no matter where you live!

adamgardner
adamgardner

I bet sharing your password is against the TOS of many of these services.

J-R-Doe
J-R-Doe

Add to the above Bozeman, MT story and comments to that of Brooksville, Florida who is activating the underwear police for city workers. see link and comments following: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/06/19/dress_code/ There are a number of stories on the WWW re: Brooksville's underwear police with some ROTFLMAO comments..

Bad Boys Drive Audi
Bad Boys Drive Audi

I would laugh at them, remind them that it's a security issue for me to give them that information and spew out the Top 5 negative outcomes if I gave out that information. I would then ask what percentage of the city's current employees have retro-provided that information. Someone really needs to slice and dice their request in more ways that Hannibal because this request is completely ridiculous! Makes you wonder the quality of employees that they eventually hire, doesn't it?

desirawson
desirawson

What's the difference? They are using your credit rating against you as well, whether you had no part in the disaster happening or not. Upside down mortgage loans, foreclosures, bankruptcy. What does that have to do with my skills? Nothing. The economy takes a dump & suddenly they can use any and everything against you.

bblackmoor
bblackmoor

We really should not be surprised. Where was the outrage when employers started demanding potential employees -- not even *employees*, merely *applicants* -- consent to the humiliating and offensive invasion of privacy called "drug testing"? Where was the indignation, and the universal refusal to comply? Where were the libertarian groups, the civil rights groups, the lawmakers and lobbyists who pretend to defend the rights of citizens against the abuse of those in power? Nowhere. I and a handful of other people refused to submit to such debasement, but the rest of you sheep went along with it, and now good luck finding an employer who *doesn't* demand it. You sheep made this bed. Get ready to lay in it.

harrylal
harrylal

Personally, I don't like social networks for a variety of reasons I do not care to go into. But to force a person to surrender a password reeks of cheap and lazy Orwellian authorities who do not want to spend the money for a proper background check to protect the public. I can appreciate the need to perform background checks on personnel in certain positions of trust (beginning with elected officials) but this is seems more like a PR stunt than a true background check. It is not that hard for a true criminal with some intelligence to create a 'pure as the driven snow' online persona to fool these morons. I certainly hope they do more than this to ensure government employees are trustworthy.

george.flecknell
george.flecknell

I probably wouldn't get the job because my life is obviously so dull I don't feel like plying it to the world with the sickening farcical popularity contest that is Facebook. Surely they should just find out if people have a facebook account and if so, just not give them a job. Facebook is a total waste of time and no company needs time-wasters.

Bad Boys Drive Audi
Bad Boys Drive Audi

While I still think I'd say something short of "kiss my @$$", I disagree that everyone should violate the TOS and create multiple accounts. Perhaps I'm just partial to a single account because I simply don't have the time (or the desire) to manage multiple accounts on a single SN site. I believe what happened here is how the market should behave: an employer put out a wildly inappropriate request and the market responded unfavorably...unfavorably enough that it caused them to retract the request. This doesn't speak about the intelligence level of those who thought this was an appropriate request; it just shows that the market is working as expected when something as silly as this surfaces.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

to make sure that they have all financial data on everyone in their employ -- after all, someone that has debt may just be a flake, right? Besides, why not charge them back for that paper they used for non-work related printouts or directions for personal use! Have it auto-deducted from their bank account without prior knowledge.

R_Snyder
R_Snyder

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790), Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759 Ben had it right a long time ago. Bozeman should get a clue. Can anyone out there loan them a quarter?

gary.mack
gary.mack

If any city or company wants to handle things in this manner, they should first provide their existing employee's private site's, passwords, web-communications etc from the top to the bottom of the corporate hirearchy and expose any potentially existing issues first. Might be a whole lot more job opportunities opened up if it were to be done this way, allthough I suspect that if the shoe was on the other foot this idea would cease to exist right away. Maybe I as a potential employee would choose not to take the job based on the personal information gleaned from this type of practice.

MPG187
MPG187

I bet crime will go up in that city because no one will be able to get a job!

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

If you lost out on an application because of this would you not now have grounds for recourse? It is (I would think) illegal if dragged through a court.

Bad Boys Drive Audi
Bad Boys Drive Audi

With all due respect, you can't be that delusional. If you asked me if I had a social network account and then didn't hire me, I'd go to work for your competition with the sole purpose of bringing your company pain. You may choose to throw the baby out with the bath water if you want to do so, but just remember you are possibly throwing out some of the best talent you could get x percentage of the time.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

TechRepublic accounts too. Those people are all dull, sickening, farcical time-wasters. Differentiate between people who join TR and those who join Facebook for me, please. Differentiate between people who discuss their personal lives on line and those who do it over coffee at the local coffee shop. Explain what you do for entertainment that you think is such superior use of time compared to other people's hobbies. And if your hobby is something equestrian, get off your damn high horse.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

that if your employees are wasting time on facebook on your time (what they do on their time is none of your damned business!), that it might be your supervisory skills that are lacking.

steven.peonio
steven.peonio

FaceBook (FB) is a social networking site. Therefore, it is not something that should be accessed while at work (IMHO). Any IT Department manager worth their salt would have FB blocked from work. Before I get flamed, the ONLY reason I agree with blocking FB while at work is because of the time wasting games. However, if a person wants to use FB on their own time, that?s their business. Having an account on FB (or any other site) should have little to no bearing on whether or not a person is hired. However, if the employee is making slanderous/libelous comments about their company while using such a site, they should be reprimanded. Also, what about those people that don?t have an account when they are hired, but then create one? Or those that were already on-staff before this was implemented? Should they have to release their info? I personally had no use for FB until my HS class started using it to organize our 20 year reunion. It has been nice to reconnect with people that I haven?t seen in 20+ years, not to mention, it?s an easy way to keep in touch with family that is spread through out the world. I can admit I was wrong about it uselessness, HOWEVER, I also use common sense and place nothing on it that I would be embarrassed for others to find out. Oh wait! Common Sense?that?s a dying breed now days isn?t it?

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Job done. Besides that was not the focus of the article.

Shellbot
Shellbot

@ssh0le. So because I have a Facebook account that I access a couple times on the weekend I am a time waster? Since when does my employer own me 24 hours.. I get paid for 9-5..and that ALL they get from me.. what i do in my spare time is my business.. And before you say otherwise, no i don't play games, "poke" people or engage in many of its functions. I use it to keep in touch with my family who live in canada as they use it, and they post a lot of pictures.. maybe you don't want to play the popularity game because your not?

DaemonSlayer
DaemonSlayer

"o make sure that they have all financial data on everyone in their employ -- after all, someone that has debt may just be a flake, right?" There are places you CAN'T get hired at if your credit history/rating isn't up to their standards already... Yeah, there are employers who already check your credit history... and there are MANY other companies that check your credit before telling you what size deposit, and in cases like insurance, how much you'll pay to have a policy with them... all based on your credit rating.

DaemonSlayer
DaemonSlayer

Wanna wind up on the no-fly list, etc???? Act like a true patriot, a patriot that CARES for what our constitution says we citizens have the liberties to do, and our remedies for "bad" government contained within, and those who's real goals are to protect the government at all costs (even the parts broken and abused) will deem you a national security threat. Even for just informing the masses of this (or me informing you could get me on those lists.)

MPG187
MPG187

Yeah like I said a person who uses alcohol or marijuana could be a good employee, and you are not hiring because of something stupid that has nothing to even do with the job?

jdclyde
jdclyde

An employee gets their work done well and in an orderly fashion or they don't. A happy employee works faster than an unhappy employee. If letting them take little breaks during the day to recharge/unwind make them more efficient, it is not wasting company time. It is the useless managers that grew up as clock punchers that have issue with this.

jdclyde
jdclyde

he can blame face/space for his lack of leadership....

royala
royala

Are you a hothead? That sort of reply is not called for here. Being an IT manager, maybe he has had nothing but problems with users wasting time/bandwidth and/or endangering the company's technical equipment using social media sites...it happens. I am a facebook and linkedin user and I know they are time wasters, but I still use them.... Good for you if you only 'socialize' at home. I'm so proud of you! So cool down!

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

getting PIN #'s, and full bank/credit card info and making sure that the city has access as if they were the applicant.

MPG187
MPG187

There is a difference between using a abusing. I don't think a person who abuses food could be a good worker. WE HAVE TO MAKE FOOD ILLEGAL because a few people become obese or diabetic!

MPG187
MPG187

It is illegal because it was associated with Mexicans who at the the Americans hated. Making it illegal was the fasted way to get them deported. It was also associated with Black Jazz Musicians who the guy who made it illegal hated. Also hemp was cheaper than timber for paper so they passed propoganda that made it illegal.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Titivate. Do you forget your military bearing?

deepsand
deepsand

Misinformed, ill informed, or simply uninformed.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Lotta what you said depends on the job.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Unless I have been badly informed all my life.

deepsand
deepsand

causes one to "suffer ill health and inability to concentrate" or otherwise unable to be a "good employee." Also, kindly submit proof that you have never committed an illegal act.

george.flecknell
george.flecknell

There is absolutely no way that a person who abuses alcohol and/or uses marijuana can be a good employee. They will suffer ill health and inability to concentrate at the least. Also marijuana is ILLEGAL, why would anyone want to employ a criminal. If it was okay to smoke marijauna and hold down a job, don't you think it would be legal.

deepsand
deepsand

Many moons ago, I one day received a call from HR that the employees currently reporting to me (I moved from dept. to dept. acting as a troubleshooter/firefighter/expediter/etc.) were taking too long for lunch, as evidenced by the building's sign-in/out logs. In response, I asked if HR had any records re. the number of times that these people had skipped their morning and/or afternoon breaks, or of the number of lunches which consisted of no more than a sandwich & beverage from the in-house vending machines, consumed at their desks while they worked, or of the number of times that they had skipped lunch entirely, or of the number of hours spent voluntarily working OT, without extra pay, all so that the work got done. Of course, HR had no such data. I then told HR that these people weren't being paid to be in their when the clock said so, but when the work demanded it; and, that if and when they were being paid according to what they actually, accomplished, I'd be happy to see to it that they always stopped working promptly at the beginning of the scheduled breaks and lunch, with them returning precisely when the clock said that they were due back at their desks, and that they would always quit at the scheduled end-of-day, regardless of whether or not there was work that needed to be completed that day. That was the last I heard from HR. You don't pay a man for what he eats, but for what he shits.

jdclyde
jdclyde

that you do NOT allow the use of personal devices in the work place? A huge security "no no". And I was not defending FB, just the idea of many managers that chases away their best, more efficient talent. The same is true for clock watchers. If it is important that I punch IN "on time", then it is equally important that I punch OUT "on time", right? Hardly a beneficial attitude for anyone, is it?

steven.peonio
steven.peonio

My viewpoint is very simple... I was hired to do a job, not to spend my time playing around on social networking sites (heck, even these posts are being placed from my personal web device). I hire people to do a job, not to spend their time playing around on the web. If a person that I hired feels that I am keeping the "thumb screws tight", they are free to find another job. :) If there was no work to be done, then absolutely I would agree that it does no harm, however, in my area there is always work to be done. While there is work to be done, I expect my staff to be doing real work. :) They can take breaks, whatever; however, sites like FB, etc (that are loaded with games) are blocked on company computers. What they do on their time (with their equipment) is absolutely NONE of my business. :) And please, keep in mind that my original post says I do use FB & I was wrong in thinking it was useless...I just refuse to let it be used at work. :)

jdclyde
jdclyde

Look at places that give employees some freedom during the day vs places that keep the thumb screws tight, and tell me who is more productive during the work day? So what if I "waste" an hour a day if I still accomplish more than my coworkers do in a day? Fools manage by a clock instead of performance, would you agree or disagree?

rob mekel
rob mekel

don't have to use FB or other social sites to play games ... there are lots of others where you can play ... so no point to block social sites from that point of view. There are others but those are more on the economical side as usage of bandwith or getting virusses or other malware in to your company network. The trouble it will take you to get those out ... well I don't have to specify that do I

steven.peonio
steven.peonio

I can see your point, and it's valid, however, there are other ways to take a break during the day and unwind (get up and go for a walk or something like that). My biggest concern about sites like FB, etc is that there are very few games on there that take a short amount of time. :)

Bad Boys Drive Audi
Bad Boys Drive Audi

Suddenly I've found out that reading your posts are a waste of time. I'm done here...

george.flecknell
george.flecknell

I agree that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but that does not mean that I have to even remotely try to accomodate it. Not everyone can win all the time.

george.flecknell
george.flecknell

Most of the time I learn about ICT. Makes me better at my job. The guy on here who found out and implemented how to host his own mail/site - not a timewaster. Facebook is ICT for children. I'm not going to talk to you about my hobbies because that is a waste of time.

Shellbot
Shellbot

I'm just in a bad enough mood that i couldn't resist...

jdclyde
jdclyde

S/h/it sounds like the same idiots that will say a certain music "sucks" based upon if they like it or not. There is much GREAT music that I don't care for, but my liking or not doesn't change the quality of it. S/h/it would also be one of the people that say "you don't NEED xyz". It is a sad/pathetic for people to sit on high in judgment over what is or isn't a waste of time, or what is or isn't something another "needs". That goes double for econuts and people like jck and his argument that people don't NEED excesses based upon HIS ideals. If you earn something, enjoy it. If you have a hobby, enjoy it. An argument could be made for people to NOT keep a well groomed lawn/yard.... while others love their yards.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

What do you do with your personal time? Any hobbies? Sports? Arts? Social work? No matter what your answer, there's someone in the world who considers what you're doing on the weekend to be a total waste of time. Music? That's pretty pointless. Scoutmaster? The little brats will just grow up to be hoodlums anyway. Tennis? There's a trip to the orthopedist waiting to happen. So, Mother Teresa, what is it you do with your spare time that's so superior to keeping in touch with family and making new acquaintances?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

First is the assumption that a potential employee is unable to separate a hobby from work time, and the assumption that the potential employee is going to use work resources to support that personal hobby. Second is the assumption that using a social site on one's own time is somehow inferior to any other use of personal time. I garden and watch auto racess. I can see how others would not enjoy those activities, but that doesn't mean I'm dull and don't have a life. Third is the assumption that if someone doesn't have membership on a social site then they won't abuse company computing resources in other ways: shopping, gambling, gaming, porn, etc. Better ask if the person has an eBay, Amazon, or Playboy account too.

Shellbot
Shellbot

forgot about that one!!!!

Darryl~
Darryl~

I personally don't have a Facebook account, or MySpace, or any of the others so I'm obviously not a "time waster" according to you...but....I really have to disagree with you saying anybody that uses Facebook "at all" is to be grouped into your "do not hire" category. You really have your head in the sand if you truly believe that....many people just use it to keep in contact with family & friends that live abroad....it's an easy way for them to post pictures etc without maxing out their email inbox quota etc. Personally, I just give my family & friends an account on my web server....not everyone has that luxury.

Shellbot
Shellbot

its all cool..he IS what i called him..he's pretty much said so.. so we all good then?? no harm done.

Shellbot
Shellbot

so your cool with me getting uppity about it then..? Glad your so enlightened..I guess looking at a photo of my daughter posted by my sister is such a waste of time! thanks for informing me..i now see the error of my ways.. my employer should fire me..god knows hard working, professional, honest people are a dime a dozen..they'll be better off without me.

george.flecknell
george.flecknell

Actually I WAS implying that people who use Facebook at-all ARE time-wasters. That was my argument. I wouldn't want to give a job to anyone who used Facebook. P.S. I am deliberately wasting time by commenting in a fourm as I don't follow my own rules.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

err -- I mean how should we lump you in with others -- wastoid???

Shellbot
Shellbot

i was simply passing remark on his oh so enlightened attitude.. his sort of reply is not called for on here. maybe i was outa line..but whatever... and don't patronise me.. i was only pointing out that just because someone is a facebook user, it doesn't mean they are to be grouped in as a waster. if he's an IT manager and has had so many problems, then obviously he doesn't have very good staff..maybe he should be more selective..or fire them if they are wasters.. and i'm lovely and cool..have a fan in front of me..

jdclyde
jdclyde

a poor manager always blames the technology, don't they? You didn't think the original twit was a hot head for attacking each and every person who accesses a social site?

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

she is entitled to her outbursts -- or didt ya get that???