Big Brother in Bozeman: Want a Job? Give Us Your Passwords Now!

computer-eye.thumbnail.jpgIf you want a job working for the city of Bozeman, Montana be prepared to hand over the log in and password info to all your social networking and blogging sites as part of the application process, and expect the city to review all your comments on, your contributions to the  Yahoo Twilight slashfiction groups, and your pictures on, plus look at the LOL cats you’ve made on ICanHasCheezeburger.

Along with asking for your educational background and employment history city’s standard job application says:

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,, MySpace, etc.," 

There are lines to add your log in and password information. One applicant was disturbed enough about this to contact the local KBZK news station, which in turn spoke to city attorney Greg Sullivan. Sullivan said:

 So, we have positions ranging from fire and police, which require people of high integrity for those positions, all the way down to the lifeguards and the folks that work in city hall here. So we do those types of investigations to make sure the people that we hire have the highest moral character and are a good fit for the City.

It makes sense that an employer might want to look at an applicant’s social networking sites. It’s a great way to discover if potential hires have ties to the Aryan Nation or whatever might not be all that desirable in a city employee. But what if the applicant is a member of a feminist group, a mosque or a non-mainstream art appreciation group like Rogue Taxidermy? Live Journal? Heck–are PMS fueled musings about Danny Bonaduce or rants about single payer health care to be taken into consideration as a criteria of employment?

There’s no reason for an applicant to give out their passwords (which is frowned upon by websites, and can be considered a Terms of Service violation).With Facebook, a member’s page can only be viewed by a friend of the person or the member themselves if they are signed in. By providing the City with a Facebook user name and password anyone in the Bozeman city employement offices not only has access to the applicant’s page but also to the pages belonging to all of the applicant’s Facebook "friends" –along with being able to update and alter any of the applicants’ personal sites. 

City attorney Sullivan says:

You know, I can understand that concern. One thing that’s important for folks to understand about what we look for is none of the things that the federal constitution lists as protected things, we don’t use those. We’re not putting out this broad brush stroke of trying to find out all kinds of information about the person that we’re not able to use or shouldn’t use in the hiring process.

While Sullivan says no one has ever removed his or her name from consideration for a job due to the request, the news of Bozeman’s Big Brother policy has gotten a lot of attention, especially on Twitter. And in Montana, over 5,000 people sounded off in a poll against the proccedure–98% were against it. CIty Attorney Sullivan is meeting with the human resource department to discuss the policy.

The Montana Constitution (Article 2, Section 10) reads:

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.

City Manager Chris Kukulski told KBZK that Bozeman stands by the policy of looking at social network pages of applicants, adding that it’s important for judging the character of future police, fireman and other employees.  Bozeman is not alone in that–according to, citing a report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC):

fully one fourth of colleges surveyed report that they implement Web search or social networking technology to find out more about applicants to their schools.

But so far no one except the City of Bozeman has asked for log in and password info.

[h/t Perez Hilton]

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Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.