Bozeman Requires On-Line Passwords of Applicants

City of Bozeman Has Publicized Policy of Employment Discrimination

June 18, 2009

The city of Bozeman, Montana now requires all applicants to provide not just what social networks they are active on, or what social networks they have accounts for, but the username and password for those accounts.

This invasion of privacy was publicized last night on the KBZK/KXLF (CBS affiliate) local news.

Bozeman Claims Non-Discriminatory

City attorney Greg Sullivan claims that this is not discriminatory. Of course, in his on camera interview with the local television station, he says that this is vital to insure that the city only hires people with the correct moral standing to represent the city.

Well, it sounds like, from the attorney's statement that the information is used expressly to discriminate against people. The discrimination in case may not be expressly prohibited by federal, state, or local laws, but the city is clearly misguided in this. If nothing else, this discrimination clearly violates Montana's State Constitutional right to happiness.

This City Claims this Is Not a Privacy Violation

Well, what else could it possibly be? Yes, anything published online is available for anyone else to look at. The City of Bozeman can just go look. There is absolutely no excuse for requesting either the username or the password. You don;t need to log in as that user to see what's public.

In addition, this is an insult to anyone completing that application form. It unequivocally states that no person who could apply for a position with the city is capable of separating their private life from their work life. Yes, people, by their very human nature, will make some associations between what people are doing 'out of uniform' with their profession or their employer, if the employer is known, but wat other restrictions is the city going to put on people: You can't go into Erotique? You cant visit a bar? You can't shop at Wal-Mart, K-Mart, or Target?

People have a right to have a private life, and the employer's rights over this private life need to be curtailed, or the employer needs to start keeping people on the clock 24 hours a day with appropriate compensation.

In addition, for many of these sites, sharing your username and password is a violation of the site's terms of use. giving the city (or any other employer or other entity) can result in your account being suspended or terminated. Depending on the network in question, this termination may prohibit you from opening the account again or even opening a new account.

What's in It for Bozeman

As one commenter on the KXLF site commented, this is just a lawsuit waiting to happen.

There is no excuse for the City of Bozeman, or any other employer, to request or require this information, other than to insure that all the people they employ are the right color and gender, or to otherwise discriminate against them.

Yes, when posting information on-line, any user should use discretion, remembering that all of this information is available to anyone with internet access, to one degree or another. Users should also consider how the information they post reflects on them or their employer. But this is no excuse for an employer to require, or even request, usernames and passwords.

What Should Be Done?

Well, first, nobody (and that's absolutely nobody) should even consider providing this information to the City of Bozeman or any other potential employer.

Then, anyone who doesn't get the job, whether it's because they didn't complete this unethical, irrelevant, invasive, unprofessional, and offensive section of the application, or even if they did complete it, should sue the employer in question for discrimination.

That would almost definitely get rid of these sections in employment applications.

What About Bozeman

Well, if Bozeman is concerned about the ethics and morals of their employees, then the employee who suggested this section be added to the application form must be fired, because only someone who does not meet the city's supposed high standards for ethics would have suggested it, and whoever approved it's inclusion in the application form also must be terminated. These people obviously do not have strong morals or ethics.

Either this section of the application is irrelevant and shouldn't be included, or the ethical and moral standards the City requires are violated by this question, and the people responsible for including it don't meet the City's standards.

Remember, never share your login information and your passwords to on-line services with anyone. Under any circumstances. Ever.