Bozeman to job seekers: We won't seek passwords

Under scrutiny, Montana city reverses long-standing policy that job applicants provide user names and passwords to sites like Facebook and MySpace.

Natalie Weinstein Former Senior Editor / News
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Natalie Weinstein
2 min read

The city of Bozeman, Mont., has rescinded its long-standing policy that job applicants provide user names and passwords to social-networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

According to a press release (PDF) issued Friday:

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.

The city stopped the practice as of midday Friday, until it "conducts a more comprehensive evaluation of the practice," the release said.

Bozeman, which is about 100 miles north of Yellowstone National Park, found itself in the international spotlight this week when the local media reported that the city government's background check included evaluating job candidates' suitability based on their social-networking site postings. The city had been doing so for a few years.

The background check form stated: "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."

Groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights organization, derided the practice.

"I think it's indefensibly invasive and likely illegal as a violation of the First Amendment rights of job applicants," EFF attorney Kevin Bankston told CNET News earlier this week. "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?"

City Manager Chris Kukulski noted to KBZK TV that information wasn't sought until "you were conditionally offered the job." The passwords already received will remain the city's confidential property, the CBS affiliate reported.