Montana City Asks Job Candidates for Facebook Usernames, Passwords

jobapplicationThere have been ample stories about employers scanning Facebook to find unflattering pictures and content of potential hires. Well, if you find that to be an unnecessary invasion of privacy, you might be appalled if you applied for a job in the City of Bozeman, Montana.

According to a report by ABC News, Bozeman asks you for your Facebook user name and password (or any social network you might belong to for that matter). Here is the precise wording, as listed in the city’s hiring document:

“Please list any and all, current personal or business web sites, 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.”

Apparently, the policy has existed for nearly three years. It didn’t surface until last week, when a citizen who contacted WBZK TV in Bozeman called the station to complain how the policy clearly violated people’s privacy. Such a policy not only represents a serious ethical breach of privacy; it also violates Facebook’s Terms of Service.

After the station ran a story, the city received several calls and e-mails, both locally and across the country, expressing outrage against the policy. The city reversed the policy on Friday, saying:

“The extent of our request for a candidate’s password, user name, or other internet information appears to have exceeded that which is acceptable to our community. We appreciate the concern many citizens have expressed regarding this practice and apologize for the negative impact this issue is having on the City of Bozeman”

Conclusion

The city commissioners in Bozeman were right to overturn this policy. Leaving it in place would set a dangerous precedent. Religion, political affiliations and sexual orientation come to mind as pieces of information on Facebook profiles that an employer has no business knowing about employees. We doubt we’ll see many more cases like this incident. While people want jobs (especially these days), they also don’t want to work for organizations who would violate their privacy in such a personal way.